LOS ANGELES—Thirty-four lone-wolf detectives and beat officers from Los Angeles' 77th Police Precinct received unpaid three-month suspensions Monday for unprofessional and insubordinate conduct that their chief said he's tolerated for the "last goddamn time."
The police officers have been subjected to scathing public criticism over the years for their tendency to play by their own rules, which include refusing to obtain warrants, beating up junkies to extract information, and hurling corrupt city officials through plate-glass windows on more than 60 occasions.
"I called those sons of bitches into my office one by one and made them hand over their badges and guns," Los Angeles Police Department chief William J. Bratton said. "I know deep down that McCluskey's a good man, but he needs to shape up or ship out. Same goes for Conroy, McAdams, Peterman, Black, Grimwald, Tobias, Keating, and McAllister."
"Also Cobb, Williams, Miller, Sanchez, Rutgers, Grodinger, Spencer, Smith, Anderson, Garcia, Walker, Thompson, Nelson, Collins, Ellroy, Morris, Coleman, Gibson, Payne, Matthews, Gonzalez, Jacobs, Hoffman, Walters, and Hopkins," Bratton added.
Although the precinct has boasted a 100 percent arrest rate since 1988, fewer than 2 percent of the indicted offenders have gone to trial, since the vast majority of drug dealers, child molesters, and serial killers investigated by the 77th Precinct have died or disappeared before their court dates. The 34 officers have caused an estimated $98 million in property damage over two decades, and the LAPD has reportedly received 1,239 citizen complaints about their conduct this summer alone. In addition, each of the suspended officers has suffered nonfatal bullet wounds to the left shoulder.
Despite their many infractions, precinct commander Thomas Henderson defended the officers as "the best damn men on the whole force."
"I don't always necessarily agree with their cockeyed methods, but, I've got to admit, they get results," Henderson said. "And they save the department thousands in chair costs by sitting on the corners of their desks."
The suspensions leave the 77th Precinct virtually depleted of staff. The shortage is compounded by the recent tragic loss of the 34 suspended officers' partners, who were reportedly gunned down in warehouses across the city while doing something brave.
According to internal affairs investigator Lee Birk, the officers have not filed a single police report in 10 years, routinely shoot out the tires of double-parked cars, and have punched out 232 paid police informants who, they later explained, made them "want to puke."
"They destroyed every single squad car and helicopter in the department and ruined the annual policeman's ball more than once," Birk said. "If they didn't prevent the terrorists from blowing up City Hall, they would have all been out on their collective asses."
The officers' darkest moment reportedly came in November 1992, when they shot and killed three dozen children who darted out of a dark alley holding toy guns. Following the incident, Henderson traveled to the San Pedro, CA marina where all 34 officers docked their houseboats. He found them passed out with bottles of Wild Turkey in their left hands and .44-caliber Magnum handguns in their right.
"I dragged every one of those sorry bastards into the shower myself, brewed 28 gallons of coffee, and made them drink it. By the time I was done, it was 3 a.m. and I was completely exhausted, but I got them back on the right track," Henderson said.
City Council candidate Bernard Lawry angrily condemned the rogue officers during a speech at a fundraiser at the Getty Center Monday evening.
"These men are a scourge on our society, and there is no place for this kind of behavior," Lawry said.
Seconds later, the suspended detectives burst into the room, exposed Lawry as the ringleader of an underground child prostitution ring, and escorted him to an awaiting police van in 34 pairs of handcuffs.
For their role in apprehending Lawry, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rewarded the officers with a mass promotion to police lieutenant. But in the ceremony at City Hall Tuesday, the officers all turned down their promotions by simultaneously throwing their lieutenant's bars to the ground.
"Get that damn thing out of my face," Detective Bruce Walker said as he and his 33 colleagues shoved TV news cameras out of their way. "I've got work to do."