SYNDICATED COLUMN: L.A. Confidential: How The LAPD Conspired To Get Me Fired From The Los Angeles Times — And How I Proved They Lied

 On Monday night, I was in tears.

The editorial page editor of The Los Angeles Times, which has run my cartoons for six years, had called me to tell me that the paper would run an “Editor’s Note” announcing that they were firing me because I had lied about my treatment by a Los Angeles police officer when he arrested me for jaywalking in 2001.

I was about to be disgraced. Compared to Brian Williams and Jayson Blair. As a journalist, nothing is worse than being accused of willfully lying about a story. It’s the end of your career.

You’re dead.

Tuesday, when the piece appeared in print as well as online, word spread like wildfire that the police had a secret audiotape of my arrest. I had written in the Times that I had been treated rudely: shoved, handcuffed, and finally, the cop tossed my driver’s license on the ground. The audiotape, claimed my editor, proved that none of that had happened. It was, in fact, a polite encounter with a friendly officer.

The Internet exploded. Predictably, right-wing blogs led the charge, dutifully transcribing editor Nick Goldberg’s accusations against me, which he accepted at face value from the LAPD: Breitbart, Newsbusters, the usual gang of idiots. Soon Twitter was full of taunts. My email filled with mirthful, snarky insults.

Amid the chaos of my career falling apart. I asked people familiar with audio technology to check the LAPD-supplied tape, which contains about 20 seconds of talk and 6 minutes of unintelligible noise, for signs of tampering — and to see if there was any way to clean it up.

On Friday morning, I woke up like a kid on Christmas morn. But what I found in my in box was better than a bike and a skateboard: an enhanced audiofile that proves, unequivocally, that I was telling the 100% truth when I wrote that essay in May.

On the tape, you can clearly hear a female bystander shouting at the LAPD officer who’d stopped me for jaywalking to “take off his handcuffs.” She yells this twice.

Officer Will Durr responds first with a “No, no, no … ” and then by whistling loudly into the mic.

The enhanced tape clearly proves that the cops are lying, not me — and it even suggests cops might have knowingly tampered with the tape.

You can listen to the tape at My incident is at the 03:30 mark.

You can hear a female witness — a witness the LAPD convinced my editors at the Times did not exist and I was making up — on the tape. She protests: “He was just jaywalking …  you need to take off … you need to take off his handcuffs.” She says that at 3:30 and repeats it at 3:50.

To this, LAPD Officer Will Durr replies: “No, no, no, no, no.”

When the bystander persists in protesting the cop’s handcuffing my wrists, LAPD Officer Durr whistles. At the time of the incident, I was puzzled by his whistling, which seemed like unusual behavior. Now I believe I understand, that it is the officer’s technique to tamp down sounds (like protesting bystanders) that he doesn’t want on the recording.

The recorder was on his uniform secretly. I had no idea the encounter was being recorded or that a copy existed until this week.

Any way you look at it, the Los Angeles Police Department is lying. Cops lied when they said that I didn’t get handcuffed. They lied when they said I was mistaken about the presence of protesting witnesses. And they lied when they told my editors at The Los Angeles Times that I’m a liar who should be fired.

And the Los Angeles Times believed the LAPD, not me, their columnist. So they sacked me.

We know the officer deliberately used whistling to alter the recording. It is also clear that he deliberately muffled it.

It is the job of the media to question authority, not to blindly defend it and eat its own.

Even in its defense of the LAPD, the Times couldn’t be bothered to do due diligence. Editors made no effort to investigate longtime traffic Officer Will Durr’s bizarre claims that he has never, ever handcuffed anyone. I exposed that lie yesterday. The Times didn’t even bother searching its own website before siding with the LAPD.

If they can’t type “Will Durr” into a search field, I suppose it’s too much to expect the LA Times could be bothered to track down a sound engineer in L-friggin’-A?

Classic Streisand effect: In their attempt to discredit me and destroy my reputation as a journalist, the LAPD wound up discrediting themselves and further eroding its own reputation. And they’re taking the Times with them.

But the LAPD’s reputation has, of course, already been destroyed by decades of police brutality, systematic corruption and fatal police shootings of one unarmed black man after another.

Will the Times do the right thing: apologize, issue a retraction, and return my cartoons and blogs to the pages of the newspaper? I hope so.

What a week.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower, to be published August 18th. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


11 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: L.A. Confidential: How The LAPD Conspired To Get Me Fired From The Los Angeles Times — And How I Proved They Lied

  1. I’ve been following this all week.
    At first, I was unconvinced that Rall was giving an accurate depiction of events. On the original tape (from LAPD) you can hear the officer say, “Take it out of your wallet.” So, the casting of the wallet into the gutter didn’t happen. On the other hand, after the interval of such a length of time, details such as this can be “lost in space” and Rall confused “wallet” with “license.”
    The enhanced audio leads me to believe that Rall was handcuffed and subjected to abuse.
    I’m also convinced that there is collusion between the LAPD and “The Los Angeles Times.”
    If this injustice isn’t rectified, Rall should sue them (both) for all they’re worth!
    Go for it, Ted!

  2. I had my own encounter with the Tribune Company, parent to the LA Times, sometime back in 2003, as I remember it.

    I was getting the Chicago Tribune delivered everyday and I always turned to see Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks first. I always thought Boondocks was the most credible thing in the whole newspaper.

    I saw in this daily rag such support for Bush’s lies in the run-up to the U.S. war of aggression against Iraq that when a Boondocks cartoon was suppressed due to editorial discretion, I emailed my complaint to the editor-censor, who told me it wasn’t censorship but editorial prerogative.

    So we exchanged heated emails and I told him I was cancelling the paper because Boondocks was less of a joke than their paper’s support for Bush’s war and their sheltering of Bush from Huey and Riley Freeman.

    I called up to cancel the Tribune and explained why I was canceling. They asked if there was anything they could do make me happy and stay subscribed.

    I told them I would accept their newspaper ONLY if it was FREE, expecting another FU in return from my FU to them.

    But they actually delivered the paper to my door for free for a full year after I cancelled it.

  3. Cops, stupid and arrogant? Or just arrogant and stupid? I can’t decide!

    See also: corporate newspapers.

  4. So Ted,

    You do a cartoon about the LAPD that the protectors of that badge-dangling gang doesn’t like (most likely, the PU). YOU have committed no crime, so there is no illegal conduct to investigate, and no reason why this element of evidence should be sought after. But apparently, some rogue cop (or representative of a rogue cop) goes on an LAPD confidential records search and discovers within their NOT ACTIVE files this particular (and seemingly obsolete) recording, that nobody should have even known about, outside of the PD. THEN, in an open act of malice, they take this illegally researched and obtained recording and (after having been quite amateurishly altered) covertly provide it to the target’s (that being you Ted) employer.

    If this nominally unknown recording was officially researched and produced for dissemination, then somebody’s signature has to be on a (VERY recent) document somewhere authorizing its search and discovery. Under the current paradigm, only a court-order (of some kind) could legally authorize such an attempt at discovery. If there is no document to research and produce, then a PD employee committed an illegal search. Either way, a courtroom end-around was accomplished for the specific purpose of doing you harm.


    • Meantime, the L.A. Times remains civilly complicit in its propagandistic production and popular dissemination of its covert release.


  5. Derlehrer,

    There is a difference between joining the witch hunt, which some did, and being skeptical, which is what it seems you did. Being skeptical does not mean you’re being a monster.

    I started to write a very detailed analysis. I then deleted it. Let me just put it this way:

    Someone(s) set out not just to “get even” with Ted. Someone(s) didn’t just decide to get him fired (Ted himself makes the mistake of thinking that in one of his entries). Someone(s) decided to completely ruin his career and his reputation. This wasn’t some petty tire-slashing “evening-up” of the score. This was an attempt to kill him. First professionally, then physically. (What’s a disgraced political cartoonist supposed to do for a living? Any HR department that has Google is going to walk right past him. Why? “Oh, we saw that he was a disgraced liar, and, well, we can’t hire a known liar; that would make us liable if anything happened in future.”)

    That was the desired end result: Ted spending the next 20 years working the 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift at Denny’s, muttering to himself, “I wasn’t making it up. I wasn’t making it up.” as he wipes down tables.

    By a margin thinner than a one-sided pancake, Ted lucked out. But there’s still going to be people who’ll read the less-fastidious corners of the Internet and think that, somehow, Ted “got away” with something.

    Malcolm X said on many occasions that you should never start a fight, but if someone takes a swing at you, you should put them in the ground. Ted, I hope you find the most-heartless lawyer in all the world. And I hope you go after these bastards. And I hope you show them not one single drop of compassion or mercy.

    Because they weren’t just willing to throw you into the tree chipper. They’d already done it.

    • Thanks.
      Really, I always try to be objective.
      When the enhanced tapes came for consideration, my skepticism disappeared.
      I don’t think Ted “lucked out” — he took the bull by the horns. Hiring professionals to enhance the tape was a brilliant move.
      I truly hope this works out to his benefit, whether it be gaining his position back or winning a humongous law-suit against LAPD and LAT.

  6. Ted, FWIW, I think you are the best living political cartoonist. I think this is why you have had so much financial trouble in your life: you challenge the establishment, because you are doing your job, which none of your colleagues do, not really. Your cartoons are spot-on about current politics, and more importantly, hilarious. I’ve financially supported you too – I bought a cartoon from you a few years back, which depicted the fact that my wife’s birthday was on 9/11. I also loved your recent “Afghanistan” tour – I remember reading it every day you posted it and waiting each day to see the next segment. You rock, dude, and I hope you can find a way to financial success. You deserve it. I will be purchasing your Snowden book at some point –

  7. Ted,

    Two more questions.
    1. Did your experts analyze the tape to locate excisions? In other words: Is there any way to show that this is a complete and true recording?
    2. Where is the LATimes reader representative in all this?

  8. Ted, if it’s any comfort to you, take this incident as proof that you are being effective in your efforts. As Mao Zedong said:

    “I hold that it is bad as far as we are concerned if a person, a political party, an army or a school is not attacked by the enemy, for in that case it would definitely mean that we have sunk to the level of the enemy. It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear dividing line between the enemy and ourselves. It is still better if the enemy attacks us wildly and paints us as utterly black and without a single virtue; it demonstrates that we have not only drawn a clear dividing line between the enemy and ourselves but have achieved spectacular successes in our work.”