Now, the Justice Department has uncovered a document that may help explain, in part, how city leaders financed their lavish salaries. The one-page memo was titled "Bell Police Department Baseball Game."
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"All of this was just a means by Rizzo to nickel and dime the community to death to get more money out of them," Christina Garcia, a community activist, said.
The memo assigned "hits" to traffic violations and infractions. Officers could score a "single" by giving out parking tickets. Impounding a car was worth a "triple." Police in Bell charged up to $2,000 for drivers to get their vehicles back -- many times more than any other community in the Los Angeles area.
Bell took in $1 million by impounding cars in 2008.
"This was a conspiracy, this was several people who said we are going to screw this community out of their livelihoods, and some people lost their homes," Bell resident Nester Enrique Valencia said.
Bell Police Officer Kurt Owens said he suffered consequences when he objected to the policy.
"I got a negative evaluation because I was in opposition to this plan, and it said right in there, that I don't go along with the program," he said.
Former Police Chief Randy Adams, who made more than $400,000 a year, has not been charged with any crime.
"I know that one day Police Chief Randy Adams went out there and impounded something like 15 cars just to give a lesson to his officers," Garcia said.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating to determine if Bell city leaders were violating the citizens' rights. The deeper they dig, the more outrageous it appears to members of the community.
In a statement, the police union said the memo was "merely a parody of Robert Rizzo's profoundly nonsensical 'towing policy.'"
People in Bell say they want the bullying stopped -- and money back from city leaders they say crossed the line.
"It hurts. People were harmed and they shouldn't have done that," Valencia said.