death The 13 Biggest LAPD Screw-Ups of All Time

409 votes 106 voters 56k views 13 items
The LAPD is a vast organization. While (hopefully) most of its officers are well-intentioned, the department has experienced huge screw-ups, with behavior that has ranged from horrible brutality to corruption to tragically unexplained uses of force. Some of the instances here are recent ones, while others are from the not-so-distant past. The saddest thing is that from these thirteen enormous LAPD screw-ups, it's hard to decide which one is the worst of all time.

Vote up which incidents on this list were the absolute worst screw-ups made by LAPD.
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Rampart Scandal

Rampart Scandal is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The 13 Biggest LAPD Screw-Ups of All Time
Photo: Freebase/GNU Free Documentation License

The Rampart scandal is another well-known piece of LAPD history, with betrayals of trust and demonstrations of treachery that Shakespeare would have loved. The Rampart division had an anti-gang unit known as Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH). Many officers involved with this unit engaged in misconduct, including planting evidence, bank robberies. dealing drugs, and committing perjury. 


One CRASH officer, Kevin Gaines, was shot by undercover officer Frank Lyga in 1997. The shooting was ruled self-defense, resulting from road rage. After Lyga was cleared and put back on duty, cocaine he had placed in evidence went missing. The investigation into the missing cocaine led to CRASH officer Rafael Perez, who may have taken the cocaine to frame Lyga in retaliation for Gaines's shooting. 

Once arrested, Perez agreed to give details about the illegal activities at Rampart. He implicated over 70 officers. 


Of the officers Perez named, 24 were found to have done something wrong. 12 were suspended, seven retired or resigned, and five were fired. 

As a result of the framing and perjury the dirty officers engaged in, 106 convictions were overturned, and the LAPD had to pay out over $125 million in settlements. 

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Rodney King

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Video: YouTube

The horrific beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers has gone down in history. After a high-speed chase on March 3, 1991, officers pulled an intoxicated King out of his car and proceeded to savagely beat him when he resisted arrest. A video was made of the attack, and the four officers who had attacked King were charged with excessive use of force. The officers were acquitted at trial, which led to L.A. going up in flames during the 1992 riots. 


The LAPD swore that it was going to change and instated policies to boost multiculturalism in the force while clamping down on brutality. While things apparently improved, subsequent arrests and other actions demonstrate that the LAPD still has a lot of really, really bad apples. 

The four officers who had attacked King were tried for violating King's civil rights. Two were acquitted, but the other two were found guilty and sentenced to prison. 

Tragically, Rodney King accidentally drowned while intoxicated in 2012. 

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Christopher Dorner

Christopher Dorner is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The 13 Biggest LAPD Screw-Ups of All Time
Photo:  uploaded by Sara Kate

Christopher Dorner was an LAPD officer who was dismissed from the force in 2008 for making false statements. Bitter about his dismissal and what he alleged was ongoing racism in the department, he went on a killing spree in February of 2013, which included going after the daughter of the captain, who Dorner felt had inadequately defended him at his disciplinary hearing.

In their pursuit of Dorner, LAPD officers ended up shooting numerous rounds at a truck with two women inside, hitting a 71-year-old in the back and injuring the other. Neither woman had any resemblance at all to Dorner, and the truck wasn't even the make or color of the one driven by Dorner. Yet the LAPD is consistent in this screw-up: Another set of officers shot at a different truck, one that also was nothing close to the one driven by Dorner. Fortunately, its occupant was lucky enough to come through the shooting unscathed. 


Dorner killed himself in a cabin in Big Bear, but not before killing four people in the course of his rampage. The big screw up there is that the cabin in Big Bear he was staying at was only 200 YARDS away from the LAPD command post.  It remains to be seen if the LAPD will try to address his complaints of continuing racial discrimination. 

And the innocent women whose truck was shot up by the LAPD? They're getting a new truck

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Ronald Weekley Jr.

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Video: YouTube

Ronald Weekley Jr. was a 20-year-old college student who was skateboarding near his home in August of 2012 when he was violently arrested by four LAPD officers. The initial reason for stopping Weekley was that he was skateboarding on the wrong side of the street. Weekley ended up with a broken nose and cheekbone, as well as a concussion, after the arrest. A bystander recorded the arrest, and the video shows that Weekley was punched in the face after he had been handcuffed and restrained. 


Weekley was booked for resisting arrest. The violence of his arrest is being investigated by two separate departments in the LAPD. 

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Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols

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Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols are two LAPD officers accused of raping at least four women while on duty. The complainants were either female police informants or women who had previously been arrested. Allegedly, the two detectives would bring their victims in an unmarked car to a secluded area, then one would keep watch while the other threatened the woman with jail if she didn't perform the requested sexual acts. 

Out of these horrific accusations, the biggest screw-up seems to be that the department didn't adequately investigate the charges for years. The first accusation was made in January of 2010, but it wasn't until January 2013 that the detectives were confronted, spurred by a victim filing a civil suit against the detectives. 

Adding another check mark to their stellar careers, Valenzuela and Nichols were accused of violence while arresting Brian Mulligan, a Deutsche Bank executive. The police maintain that Mulligan was high on drugs during his arrest, but Mulligan says he was abducted, threatened, and beaten by the LAPD officers. 


Chief Charlie Beck is "saddened" by the allegations. The officers are on paid leave while they are under investigation. 

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Steven Eugene Washington

Steven Eugene Washington is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The 13 Biggest LAPD Screw-Ups of All Time
Photo:  uploaded by Sara Kate

Steven Eugene Washington was a 27-year-old man with autism and learning disabilities who liked trains and was shy around strangers. In March of 2010, he was shot and killed by LAPD officers from a gang enforcement unit. The officers stopped Washington after being startled by a loud noise while out in their patrol car in Koreatown. The officers said that Washington did not heed their commands and they thought he was reaching for a weapon. Washington was in fact unarmed, and most likely did not explicitly obey the officers because of his learning disabilities and general discomfort with strangers. 


After the shooting, the ACLU urged the LAPD to review its policies on when to use lethal force. 

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Javier Ovando

Javier Ovando is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The 13 Biggest LAPD Screw-Ups of All Time
Photo: Freebase/CC-BY-2.5

No mention of LAPD screw-ups is complete without talking about Javier Ovando, a victim of corrupt officers who were part of Rampart scandal. In 1996, Officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden shot gang member Ovando in his apartment. The shooting left Ovando paralyzed from the waist down. The officers then planted a gun on the unarmed man and perjured themselves at Ovando's trial, saying that he had assaulted them. Ovando was sentenced and served over two years in prison before the corruption and malfeasance at Rampart were uncovered.


Ovando was released from prison and later received a settlement of $15 million, the largest in LAPD history. 

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Russell Mecano

Russell Mecano is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The 13 Biggest LAPD Screw-Ups of All Time
Photo:  uploaded by Sara Kate

LAPD officer Russell Mecano paid a 19-year-old girl, who had been arrested on a different charge, $200 for sex before telling the girl to meet him at a nearby Holiday Inn. In another incident, Mecano told an 18-year-old girl that if she had sex with him, he would not arrest her for possession of a marijuana pipe. He then arranged to meet her at the same Holiday Inn. Fortunately, both victims reported the incidents and did not meet with Mecano. Mecano was convicted in 2011 of paying for sex and of sexual assault.


Mecano was sentenced to eight years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender. The Holiday Inn took no actions over the insult to its reputation.