Federal District Judge William Rea ruled yesterday that anti-racketeering laws can be used in a current case against the Los Angeles Police Department and officers accused of corrupt acts in the continually unfolding Rampart Division police scandal. The court’s ruling will allow the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law to be used in a case in which plaintiffs are accusing LAPD officers of beating and false arrests, and arguing that the LAPD knew of and condoned these actions. Applying this statute to the case would treat the LAPD as a “criminal enterprise” that conspired to bring false drug charges, plant false evidence and brutalize citizens. Since the scandal erupted, over 100 criminal cases have been overturned. The LAPD has also been previously accused of systematically covering up brutality by officers toward their wives and girlfriends.
Chief Penny Harrington, Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing, urged that, as this case moves forward, the courts examine the role of gender in police brutality. The Center’s research shows that women officers are involved in excessive force and brutality at rates substantially below male officers. In its 1992 examination of the LAPD, the Christopher Commission found that ongoing sexism and discrimination against women in the LAPD contributed to the climate of excessive use of force among officers.