“To serve and protect” is the main creed of most police officers. In reality, how does this ideal translate? In L.A., an area called Rampart, has unfortunately experienced the opposite of the famous creed. Police have beaten, planted evidence and arrested innocent people. These police officers are part of a special unit known as CRASH, which is a shortened term for Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums.
These police officers justified their actions by thinking that the end justifies the means. In addition, their continuous deviant behavior was due to the fact that they resisted supervision and control, and there was no unity and coordination with the LAPD-which they are actually under in. Also, inadequate supervision and policy implementation made officers take matters into their own hands. In the end, the Board of Directors delved into the matter before any demotion, suspension or termination against the implicated CRASH officers were done.
The Board of Police Commission also investigated the situation by inquiring about the policies, procedures and operations of the LAPD. Although, the rest of the police force in the country reflects similar behavior that the CRASH officers’ displayed.
CRASH police officers want to “win the war on crime at any cost” (49). This means that as long as they put gang members behind bars, the manner in which this act is executed should not be a matter of concern anymore. Even probable suspects that do not have direct and tangible evidence against them are arrested and imprisoned because CRASH officers deem that it is better to lock them in rather than “allow them to remain at large where they might have the opportunity to commit such crimes in the future.” (49).
Professor and writer Jonathan Delamater points out, “[a]n essential part of neutralization [to deviant behavior] …is that of changing normative orientation. The individual must…develop justification for violating the conventional ones.” This has been clearly illustrated by the CRASH police officers with their “the end justifies the means” reasoning behind their acts.
Also, their assumption and justification that they are putting the bad guys away serves as the pleasant reward to their acts of brutality, and deception to the public and to gang members who they falsely plant evidence against. Thus, Delamater states that “most people will not repeatedly engage in behavior that has unpleasant consequences [unless they]… anticipat[e] pleasantness of consequences in selecting behavioral alternatives.” He also mentions that people may not achieve the results that they want if they engage in conventional means.
Therefore, CRASH police officers enact behaviors that are off the books in order to clean the streets of Rampart from the people who they think are undesirables. This behavior is contrary to the standard ethical conduct expected from police officers. This unruly behavior sends a “clear message to [CRASH] officers that they [are] a police force unto themselves, governed only by their own rules, and free to take the law into their own hands if that would further the mission of CRASH….” (43).
In addition, behaviors like these are not corrected because the officers are resistant to “supervision[n] and control and ignored LAPD’s procedures and policies” (43). They are also unreceptive to “suggestions from officers, management and training personnel outside Rampart Area…” (49). Hence, an uncooperative team of police officers will end up doing whatever they want and think is right. Plus, the lack of unity within the department has also contributed to this kind of behavior.
Although, inadequate and improper supervision of the CRASH unit by the LAPD Department is the ultimate reason this rude and immoral behavior have transpired. The LAPD clearly neglected to “provide the leadership, oversight, management and supervision necessary to control this specialized unit” (43). Systematic field inspections and audits would have ensured that the CRASH officers are complying with the existing rules of the department. However, CRASH was not “audited for a period of two years between 1995-1997.
The Operations-Central Bureau lieutenant… made it known… that Rampart detective refused to provide him with statistics and sergeant’s log books necessary to complete an audit. When the detectives’ refusal was brought to the attention of a Rampart lieutenant, nothing was done” (50-51). Thus, practices like this gave way to the unprecedented misconduct of the officers and resulted in the apparent lack of knowledge by the LAPD regarding the deviant behavior of CRASH officers.
After the brutality and unacceptable measures employed by CRASH officers became known to the public, that is the time that the LAPD Department scrambles to their feet to uncover the root and causes of the problem. Officers that were suspected of illegal activity were questioned. The Board of Directors then conducted an investigation of these officers before any measure can be done to demote, suspend or fire them. The inquisition into the case has resulted in three “officers [being] fired…six other officers have resigned rather than face a Board of Rights hearing, and 25 have been relieved of duty…” (47).
Also, the Board of Police Commissioners stepped in by looking at the Department’s policies, procedures and operations,…[so as to] consider [and gain insight into the] structural issues and obtain input from inside and outside the Department” (52). But enforcement of policy is not enough to guarantee that this event will not take place again. The social system which “this behavior is but one small part…[should be altered]. [If not]…relations are likely to get worse before they get better if our society continues bent on law and order-without justice and social reform” (McCarthy).
However, the CRASH officers’ behavior is not distinct from other police officers in the country. A study conducted with 36 observers who rode with patrolmen in the Chicago, Boston and D.C. area showed that “officers actually committed a felony in the presence of the observers” (Observing police misconduct, 1971). Felony assault that occurs is “rarely in response to physical aggression by the citizen and never necessary to sustain an arrest” (Observing police misconduct, 1971). Professor and writer Richard Danner concurs by mentioning that “the use of violence…[happens when] victim show[ed] disrespect for the police or in order to obtain information…”
He also explains this problem by saying that police officers have “rules of secrecy, specific patterns of acceptable behavior and their own form of morality….they are dedicated to their own interests [at times] at the expense of the public whom they purportedly serve…” (Danner). In addition, a new officer who does not have any violent tendencies, become acclimated and transformed into the police culture the longer he stays on the job (Danner).
In short, deviant behavior- either a criminal or delinquent one- is only possible when the person engaging in the behavior truly believes that what he is doing is right.
Therefore, a rationale or justification- in this instance “the end justifies the means” reasoning by CRASH officers- is necessary for the deviant behavior to continually take place. Resistance to supervision by CRASH officers, lack of supervision and unity also resulted to bring about this unfortunate matter. Investigating the matter and punishing the wrong doers are appropriate measures that need to be done in order to stop the problem. However, a thorough outlook and reform into the system is necessary to ensure that this situation never happens again.
(2000). Report of the Rampart Independent Review Panel.
Delamater, J. (1968). Social Forces on the Nature of Deviance. University of Michigan, 46, 4.
(1971). Observing police misconduct. Science News, 99.
McCarthy, J.F.X. (1971). Minorities and the Police. International Migration Review.
Danner, R.J. (1973). The Police and the Law. Phylon.