Rafael Perez’s testimony on police misconduct ignited the biggest scandal in the history of the L.A.P.D. But was it the real story?

Eventually, Perez implicated about seventy officers in wrongdoing, and the questions he raised about police procedure cast the city’s criminal-justice system into a state of tumult. More than a hundred convictions were thrown out, and thousands more are still being investigated. The city attorney’s office estimated the potential cost of settling civil suits touched off by the Rampart scandal at a hundred and twenty-five million dollars. A city councilman, Joel Wachs, said that it “may well be the worst man-made disaster this city has ever faced.” The Rampart scandal finally broke the L.A.P.D. in a way that even the Rodney King beating, in 1991, and its bloody aftermath had not, forcing the city to accept a federal role in overseeing the police department’s operation. Yet in the view of the lead investigator, Detective Brian Tyndall, members of the task-force team investigating Rampart have come to believe that Rafael Perez is not just a rogue cop who had decided to come clean but a brilliant manipulator who may have misdirected their inquiry. “He’s a convict,” Tyndall says. “He’s a perjurer. He’s a dope dealer. So we don’t believe a word he says.”