A True Story of Corruption and Murder in the LAPD
Age Range: 8 - 10
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 At least some L.A. cops were abusing their trust long before the Rodney King case--as demonstrated in this riveting narrative of police-sponsored insurance fraud, armed robbery, automatic-weapons dealing, and murder for hire. Detective Richard Ford and Officer Robert Von Villas of the LAPD's Devonshire Division (nicknamed ``Club Dev'' to emphasize its contrast with rougher areas of the city) seemed pillars of rectitude: decorated Vietnam heroes; charming and caring husbands and fathers, beloved for their service to the community. Many were astonished, then, when, in 1983, the two were indicted for conspiring to murder and for performing a contract killing. Their chief accuser, Bruce Adams, appeared a lowlife by contrast: an auto mechanic having business difficulties with the two cops, who were his silent partners; a Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress disorder and a troubled work history. Even with a wealth of circumstantial evidence and a wired Adams catching Ford in an explicit conversation about a planned sex-torture-mutilation murder, convicting L.A.'s ``killer cops'' wasn't easy: The cases cost city taxpayers $8-10 million, with the trials concluded only six years after the arrests. As the first L.A. cops convicted of first-degree murder, Ford and Von Villas received life without possibility of parole. Golab (a contributing editor to Los Angeles magazine) tells the tale primarily from the viewpoint of Adams, an ambivalent hero terrified of informing on Ford (and no wonder: unlike the Federal Witness Protection Program, with its deep pockets, the LAPD could spare only $7,000 to help Adams relocate, and he and his family continue to live in hiding). It's a truly scary cautionary tale, though Golab's attempts to see it as a harbinger of the Rodney King beating seem forced, except for his noting of the rogue cops' belief that their badges were shields of immunity. Narrated with little grace, but the bone-chilling horror comes through in this story begging for film or TV adaptation.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1993
ISBN: 0-87113-499-3
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993