Scott Glover And Matt Lait's Work At L.A. Times Provides An Excellent Look At The Weaknesses Of The LAPD
Just as in the Ramparts scandal, the picture of the Los Angeles Police Department is indelible. All too often, this agency sinks into malfeasance and all kinds of plain sloppiness that goes uncorrected by the higher authorities in the Department. It is a depressing scenario that seems to be repeated time and time again as the years slip by.
In fact, long before Glover and Lait came on the scene, the Times reported many instances of the LAPD failing to serve the public adequately. Each time, there were reform efforts, many of them well publicized. Each time, Los Angeles mayors promised improvements, but always, it seems, there have been disappointments.
The word "endemic" does not really describe the problems of the Los Angeles Police Department, because "endemic," according to the dictionary, usually implies that a bad condition or disease is more or less under control, but it is all too clear in reading the work of Glover and Lait that what ails the LAPD is out of control, and is not being fixed.
The latest stories have to do with the case of Bruce Lisker, 39, now serving a life sentence for murdering his mother in Sherman Oaks back in 1983. Sherman Oaks is a neighborhood of Los Angeles and under the jurisdiction of the LAPD.
In a monumental Sunday story, May 22, Glover and Lait detailed new evidence and findings contradicting Lisker's conviction, quoted the prosecutor in the case, who is now retired, as saying he has reasonable doubt about Lisker's guilt and cited seven jurors who say that had they known all the evidence at the time, they would have voted to acquit Lisker.
In a repeat of so many other episodes of questionable conduct at the LAPD, the Department launced a reinvestigation. But, it develops, the reinvestigation was aborted..
The internal affairs sergeant, Glover and Lait report, who was probing the case, Jim Gavin, may have been improperly ordered to shut down his inquiry last year after finding that the LAPD detective who investigated the murder, Andrew Monsue, may have prematurely dismissed a second suspect and possibly lied to prevent Lisker's release on parole. Monsue has denied any wrongdoing.
This case has everything, including bloody footprints that turned out not to have been made by Lisker, and money he was said to have stolen from his mother may have remained in her pursue all the time.
Not only was Gavin ordered to stop his investigation, but he was transferred to a new assignment and is under investigation himself for informing the Lisker defense of some of his concerns.
Why was Gavin told to cease his investigation? Gavin said his supervisors had informed him that police internal affairs was not in the business of investigating homicides. "I was told to shut it down," Gavin said of his investigation. "I was told I was done."
But, as usual, the LAPD is not done with its own twisting in the wind. Now, the whole matter is under reinvestigation by the LAPD's civilian watchdog, Inspector General Andre Birotte, Jr., as reported by Glover and Lait in a story Sunday, June 5.
This is par for the course at LAPD. Investigations, reinvestigations, reforms, aborted reforms, police chiefs who won't comment, as Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton won't comment now. And then, as was the case in the Rampart scandal, the thing is swept under the rug for the most part, as the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Stephen Cooley, did with Rampart.
It is a sordid story, which goes far to explain why Los Angeles has such an unsettled environment that it has been the scene of two deadly riots, 1965 and 1992, revolving around feelings of police misconduct, and has recently been the subject of a popular movie, "Crash," which reflects on the city's tensions.
The one good thing about all this is that Los Angeles and the Times are lucky to have reporters like Glover and Lait, and editors like Marc Duvoisin, who don't grow discouraged, who are proud of such stories and keep faith that one day the LAPD may actually improve. It shows once again, the press is not all bad, as some ideologues claim.