While the chronology of our careers within the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department overlapped, I don't know Bernice Abram. The first time that the Carson Station captain registered on my radar was in a recent Los Angeles Times article detailing an operation in which federal agents heard a woman's voice—allegedly Abram—discussing marijuana transactions with drug traffickers.
The sheer imagery of the scene is intriguing: Federal agents sitting around looking like so many dogs in those old RCA logos—heads canted, listening intently, more than a little curious as to what the hell they're hearing, and hopefully incredulous of it. Once saddled with their concerns, these investigators brought them to the attention of LASD and Abram was placed on leave as of last April (the matter has only belatedly come to light after news media inquiries were made into it).
I'm sure that Abram would be pleased to know that I extend her the same benefit of the doubt that I would to, say, a "person of interest." I mean, sometimes cops do screw up; that is, the cops doing the investigations. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck's assertions regarding the arrest of Giovanni Ramirez for the beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow certainly had me convinced they had a case: Where do I sign the booking slip? But Ramirez was later revealed to be innocent, at least of the Stow attack.
At the same time, I know that agencies tend to be even more cautious of the prospect of screwing up when it concerns one of their own. And face it, when you're dealing with an African-American female captain, you'd better be damn sure that you have your ducks in a row, especially since you've already had millions of dollars in civil suits awarded against you.
Regardless of the merits of Abram's case, there are few things more terrifying than the thought of a captain of a patrol station playing both sides of the fence. The question isn't whether or not your captain had your best interests in mind but how far would he or she go to protect his or her criminal contacts?
That LASD may have a fox in its chicken coop hardly surprises me. It takes all kinds to do the job, and God knows Los Angeles County has a history of hiring and promoting them, a practice that found me working alongside people who turned out to be everything from embezzlers to murderers.
Such sociopathology is the stuff of convoluted plotlines and bad cop movies, only played out in real life. Stories of corruption at all levels of the department have made the rounds for years, with many regarded as open secrets among its personnel.
A curious sensation of schadenfreude has always found me locking onto those associated with certain members of the department's upper echelon. The following is a quick and by no means complete list:
- The female sergeant busted for pot who successfully had her prosecution shit-canned because she had videotapes of various administrative members in her bed
- The various chiefs and commanders responsible for felony DUIs and hit-and-runs
- The back door dealings of helicopter parts and stolen firearms
- The falsification of charges against a detective who went snooping into affairs deemed not to be of his concern (the department paid only about a million on that fiasco, a bargain given the particulars)
I am not one to minimize the implications of the above transgressions, but surely there is nothing worse than working on the front lines of narcotics interdiction and having a captain engaging in the trafficking of narcotics. Does a captain like that have your back? Or does that captain have your back zeroed in?
As a bleeding heart cop advocate, I've been taken to task for defending what some deem indefensible. Whether any remorse is warranted on those fronts is debatable. But I do know that I'd feel like a twerp if I failed to acknowledge the elephant in the room: To what extent have the cartels and their ilk gotten their talons into the sides of administrators, not only within LASD, but LAPD and elsewhere?
Maybe that's a specious speculation. I hope it is. Maybe the culprit is something else—LASD's promotional policies and practices (often NOT one and the same) and the hazards of quota-based promotions. I guess we in the peanut gallery will just have to wait and see.
At least we're one up on Lady Justice on that score. But while she may be blind, I just hope that when it comes to Abram's guilt or innocence and the taped evidence, that Justice isn't deaf, too.