The LAPD Box Score Reads: Two Runs, Two Hits, One Error

Giovanni Ramirez was not some naïf snatched from his home or his job and hurled into the machinery of the criminal justice system based on trumped-up evidence. He was a gang member and convicted felon on active parole for a weapons charge. According to the L.A. Times, he has at least two other previous felony convictions, one for robbery and the other for attempted robbery.  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the victim of the latter crime was an elderly woman. To Sandy Banks, none of this is anything to be ashamed of.

Furthermore, we have yet to hear an explanation from his defenders as to why Ramirez was staying at the apartment in East Hollywood, far away from his home and gang territory in East Los Angeles. This, too, is a violation of his parole conditions, albeit a technical one. And now we learn that Ramirez’s girlfriend, Denise Piccione, 26, has been arrested in Las Vegas for methamphetamine trafficking and possession of a dangerous weapon. Associating with drug dealers is also a violation of his parole conditions.

It was Ramirez’s own prior conduct, it was the decisions that he alone made as to how he would live his life, that led to his being a suspect in the Bryan Stow beating. And isn’t it ironic that Ramirez chooses to shave his head in the manner typical of Latino gang members. One advantage this offers is to make it difficult for crime victims and witnesses to identify them from one another, but in Ramirez’s case it was turned against him. In choosing to look like so many other thugs in Los Angeles, he was mistaken for one of the most wanted men in town.

So Sandy Banks can shed all the tears she likes for Giovanni Ramirez, but neither she nor he should be waiting by the phone for that apology.

Elsewhere in the LAPD, the department brass has been tripping over their own feet as they try to turn a minor incident into a scandal. On July 7, officers from the LAPD’s 77th Street Division held an off-duty party at a bar in Gardena. Billed, perhaps a bit imprudently, as a “hood day” party, mimicking those held by gang members, the party was attended by officers and supervisors alike. I’m told it was quite a bash.

A sign was posted at the bar’s entrance -- again, perhaps a bit imprudently -- advising that any cop who had agreed to comply with new financial disclosure rules for gang and narcotics officers would be unwelcome at the party. When those rules went into effect in March, only the lieutenant in the 77th Street gang unit agreed to comply with them and remain in his position. All of the sergeants and officers exercised the option to be assigned to other duties rather than complete the disclosure, a decision they were advised -- at every level of the chain of command, right up to Chief Beck himself -- would be accepted without consequences.

But there are still hard feelings among the brass that so many cops refused to roll over, so the investigation into the party is seen by many cops at 77th Street as a chance for the department to get even. In a move sadly typical of LAPD management, they overreacted to a minuscule incident in a way that will only make matters worse. The investigation had barely begun when four police officers and a lieutenant, all experienced veterans at 77th Street, were unceremoniously transferred to other stations. Before it’s all over, internal affairs investigators will likely claim a few more scalps for some perceived indiscretions, but none of it will make working the 77th Street gang unit any more attractive than it was before. A police station’s morale can be shot to hell overnight, but it takes a long time to bring it back.

Illustrating the stubborn endurance of bad ideas, the financial disclosure rules at the root of the fuss described above are among the last vestiges of the federal consent decree imposed on the LAPD in the wake of the so-called Rampart scandal of the late 1990s. The consent decree was a colossal waste, enriching those who made a career out of enforcing it and only diverting vast quantities of money and other resources away from the fight against crime in Los Angeles. We now learn that one of the consent decree’s chief architects, Donna Murphy, has been nominated by President Obama for a judgeship for the Superior Court of Washington, D.C.

Murphy currently serves in the Justice Department, where she worked under Janet Reno and Bill Lann Lee in the Civil Rights Division at the time the consent decree was crafted. Back in March, Hans von Spakovsky made the case here on Pajamas Media as to why Murphy’s nomination should not go through, to which I would only add that I would hate to be a police officer called to testify in her court. Crime in D.C. is bad enough without another liberal activist on the bench looking for ways to excuse criminal behavior.