Patterico, Oh, That Liberal Media!, Aug. 16
I could probably write a book on political correctness at the Los Angeles Times—especially when it comes to issues of race. I recently ran across a startling example of this attitude that I thought I’d share with you here. If the accusations I am about to relate to you are true, the Times deliberately sanitized an explosive story in order to protect the career of a public official favored by Times editors. (I believe the story is true, because I have personally witnessed something similar. Maybe I’ll tell you the story some day.)
I just finished a fascinating non-fiction book called LAbyrinth, by Randall Sullivan. The book chronicles the efforts of an LAPD detective named Russell Poole to investigate various crimes that he came to suspect were related: the shooting of an LAPD officer by an undercover narcotics detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the murder of rapper Tupac Shakur; the murder of rapper Notorious B.I.G.; and various crimes relating to the LAPD Rampart scandal. Poole uncovered evidence that the glue binding these crimes together was a man named Suge Knight.
Poole attempted to explore the relationship between Suge Knight’s Death Row Records record label and a number of black LAPD officers who were also gang members. In particular, he sought to learn whether Suge Knight had hired a man named Amir Muhammed to kill Notorious B.I.G. However, Detective Poole claims, his investigation was stymied by high-ranking officials at the LAPD—specifically including Bernard Parks, who headed the Internal Affairs Division and later became Chief of Police (and who, for those of you who don’t live here, is black). Poole believed that Parks and other officials were blocking the investigation because it would reveal that several LAPD officers were active Bloods gang members in the employ of Suge Knight.
Detective Poole ultimately quit his job in frustration, and decided to take his story of alleged corruption at the highest levels of the LAPD to the L.A. Times—a move he came to regard as one of the biggest mistakes he ever made. Poole spoke with two reporters who have made names for themselves covering the Rampart scandal: Matt Lait and Scott Glover. Poole claims he told Lait and Glover that the LAPD (and Parks in particular) would not allow him to investigate the possibility that Suge Knight was behind the murder of Notorious B.I.G., because such an investigation would probably prove highly embarrassing to the LAPD.
When Lait and Glover’s story ran in the paper in December 1999, Poole says he couldn’t believe his eyes. The story contained no mention of Poole’s blockbuster allegation that Bernard Parks had blocked his investigation for political reasons:
I was just in shock when I read it, Poole recalled. They made it sound like the case was about to break wide open, instead of describing how the investigation had been thwarted. . . What I had told them was that nobody ever really looked for Muhammed [the man Poole believed had possibly killed Notorious B.I.G. on behalf of Suge Knight], because the brass didn’t want to conduct an investigation that might lead to LAPD officers . . . I tried to get those guys to do another story that got it right, but they wouldn’t.
When I read this, I was in shock myself. Why would the Times pass on a chance to publicize a scandal that would rock the LAPD brass?
A possible answer appears later in the book:
During the summer of 2000, Poole recalled, he had a series of conversations with Lait and Glover about his belief that Chief Parks had obstructed justice. At first I said I didn’t trust them, Poole said, but then I agreed to cooperate if they told the story right this time. But the article I was expecting never ran. Finally I called them up to ask why. Scott Glover told me that they had been getting pressure ‘from upstairs.’ When I asked what that meant, he said the publisher had made it clear that the Los Angeles Times was not going to help bring down an African-American chief of police.
Lait and Glover have denied Poole’s account of that conversation, and so has their editor. But Poole’s account is consistent with many facts.
First, Poole is not the only person I have heard accuse Parks of obstructing investigations of misconduct by LAPD officers. I have personally heard Richard Rosenthal (the D.A. who negotiated the plea bargain with Rafael Perez that began the Rampart scandal) say that Parks took several steps that made it difficult for the D.A.’s office to prosecute cops for criminal offenses. For example, Parks repeatedly ordered officers to provide compelled testimony at internal LAPD hearings, even after Rosenthal warned him that doing so would create legal impediments to the D.A.’s ability to prosecute those officers.
The book quotes a Deputy D.A. who has a good reputation within the office and knows Poole. This Deputy D.A. says he believes that Poole is telling the truth about Glover’s alleged statements (and further says that he has told Lait and Glover that to their faces—and that their responses simply served to confirm his belief in Poole’s version).
Poole’s account is also consistent with the way the paper later spun the decision by Mayor Hahn to remove Parks. Rather than focus on the terrible job Parks had done as Chief, or on the precipitous decline in morale among rank-and-file LAPD officers under Parks’s tenure, the paper chose to focus on whether Hahn, by removing Parks, had alienated the black community that had adored his father for so many years.
Finally, Poole’s account is consistent with the way that the L.A. Times has treated race issues for years. As I said, I could probably write a book about this.
If Poole is telling the truth, then the L.A. Times buried explosive allegations that the LAPD covered up wrongdoing by its officers—because the paper wanted to save the job of the Chief of Police, due to the fact that he was black.
The fact that such an allegation is plausible is frightening in the extreme.
(Posted on August 18, 2004)