This L.A. Observed post about the LAPD’s dissemination of information reminded me of a story of mine from several years ago.
I had a trial involving alleged possession of cocaine for purposes of sale. The defendant had made a complaint against one of the officers, and Internal Affairs had spoken to the defendant. I had heard rumors that the defendant had made incriminating statements on the tape, but it had not been turned over in the regular course of discovery. (Nothing unusual about that; personnel complaints are often considered confidential, and police often do not include such materials in the set of discovery routinely provided to the attorneys trying the case.) I was looking for a way to contact the IA officers who had spoken with the defendant, and called the relevant station’s front desk asking for the number.
I didn’t identify myself as a D.A. I just called the front desk, and asked for the number for Internal Affairs.
I was given a phone number . . . which turned out to be wrong.
I later called an investigator on the case, identified myself as a Deputy D.A., and explained to him what I was looking for, and why. I asked for the relevant Internal Affairs number. He gave it to me. It turned out to be the same number that I had been given by the officer at the station’s front desk — with one minor difference: two of the numbers were transposed.
I am confident that I correctly wrote down the number that the desk officer had given me.
Do you see what I’m saying? I called an LAPD station, didn’t say who I was, and asked for the number for Internal Affairs — and the number I got was incorrect, but ever so slightly so. I later called back — this time identifying myself and my pro-law enforcement purpose — and got the right number.
When I was given a wrong number by a desk officer, was it an innocent mistake on his part?
Who can say?
There would be no point in filing a complaint, even in the event that I could determine who had answered the phone that day. It would be argued that I might have been the one who transposed the digits — and even if it was the desk officer’s fault (and I’m telling you it was), he might simply have misspoken.
But we Deputy DA’s are suspicious by nature. And I’ve always suspected that it wasn’t a mistake. And I’ve wondered how many ordinary citizens have been given the same “incorrect” number when they told a desk officer that they wanted the phone number for Internal Affairs.