The 12 Biggest LAPD Screw-Ups of All Time

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.

Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

  • Steven Eugene Washington

    Steven Eugene Washington was a 27-year-old Black man with autism and learning disabilities who liked trains and was shy around strangers. In March of 2010, he was slain by LAPD officers from a gang enforcement unit. 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 Washington's passing, the ACLU urged the LAPD to review its policies on when to use lethal force. 

  • Rampart Scandal

    The Rampart scandal is a 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 incident was ruled as self-defense, resulting from road rage. After Lyga was cleared and put back on duty, coke he had placed in evidence went missing. The investigation into the missing substance led to CRASH officer Rafael Perez, who may have taken the coke to frame Lyga in retaliation for what happened to Gaines. 

    Once apprehended, Perez agreed to give details about the illegal activities related to Rampart and other scandals. He implicated over 70 officers. 


    As a result of Perez's revelations, the LAPD had to pay out over $125 million in settlements to the victims of the corruption scandal and their families.

  • Ronald Weekley Jr.

    In August of 2012, Ronald Weekley Jr., a 20-year-old African American college student, was skateboarding near his home when four LAPD officers aggressively apprehended him. 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.

    A bystander recorded the incident, and the video shows that Weekley was punched in the face after he had been handcuffed and restrained. 


    Weekley was booked for resisting arrest. He then filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging that the officers violated his civil rights, but he lost the case in June 2014.

  • Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols

    Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols are two LAPD officers accused of forcing themselves on at least four women while on duty. The complainants were either female police informants or women who had previously been apprehended. Allegedly, the two detectives would bring their victims in their 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 services.

    Despite these accusations, 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.

    Adding another check mark to their stellar careers, Valenzuela and Nichols were accused of using excessive aggression while apprehending Brian Mulligan, a Deutsche Bank executive. The police maintain that Mulligan was high during his apprehension, but Mulligan says he was taken against his will and threatened by LAPD officers.


    Initially, Chief Charlie Beck said he was disturbed by the allegations. In 2018, the Valenzuela and Nichols pled no content and received sentences of 25 years each for their actions.

  • 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.