Unspeakable Times
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The 12 Biggest LAPD Screw-Ups of All Time

Updated September 23, 2021 76.4k views12 items

The LAPD is a vast organization. While (hopefully) most of its officers are well-intentioned, the department has experienced huge scandals - 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 enormous LAPD improprieties, it's hard to decide which one is the worst of all time. Though, the LAPD Rampart Division tops the list.

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

  • 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. A video was made of the incident, and the four officers who had targeted King were charged with excessive use of force.

    The officers were acquitted at trial, which led to LA going up in flames during the 1992 riots


    The LAPD swore that it was going to change and instate policies to boost multiculturalism in the force while clamping down on brutality. The four officers who had harmed King were also tried for violating King's civil rights. They were found not guilty. In 2012, King drowned while intoxicated in an unrelated incident. 

  • Javier Ovando

    No mention of the LAPD's checkered history is complete without talking about Javier Ovando, a victim of officers who were part of the Rampart scandal. In 1996, Officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden shot gang member Ovando in his apartment. The incident 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 malfeasance at Rampart was uncovered.


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

  • Christopher Dorner

    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 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 firing numerous rounds at a truck with two women inside, hitting a 71-year-old in the back and harming 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. Then, another set of officers targeted a different truck, one that also was nothing close to the one driven by Dorner. Fortunately, its occupant was lucky enough to come through unscathed. 


    Dorner ended himself in a cabin in Big Bear, but not before dispatching four people in the course of his rampage. The cabin in Big Bear he was staying at was really close to an LAPD command post. The LAPD had claimed that they checked for him in all cabins and apartments in Big Bear, but they didn't find Dorner until after he had passed.

  • Russell Mecano

    In 2007, LAPD officer Russell Mecano paid a 19-year-old girl, who had been apprehended 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 relations with him, he would not take her into custody her for possession of contraband.

    He then arranged to meet her at the same Holiday Inn. Fortunately, both victims reported the incidents and did not meet with Mecano.


    In 2011, Mecano was convicted of paying for sex and sexual assault. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender.