The Untold Truth of the Training Day
As terrifying as it might be to hear, Denzel’s cop who cuts corners and facilitates crime wasn’t one hundred percent fictional.
The opening minutes of “Training Day” leave the viewer in no doubt that Alonzo is a one-of-a-kind, unstoppable force of nature who talks and walks. While that’s partly down to Denzel Washington’s acting skills and the quality of the script, it’s also because the two allegedly had a real-life plan: disgraced cop Rafael Perez and former officer of LAPD David Mack.
Perez, who would later have his name legally changed to Ray Lopez, was a central figure in the Rampart scandal, an explosion of police mischief headlines that would also inspire films such as ‘Crash’, ‘Street Kings’ and of course , the 2011 Woody Harrelson film “Rampart”, as well as the long-running TV series “The Shield”. Mack, another member of the Rampart Division’s CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) unit, was arrested in 1997 after he robbed a bank in South Central Los Angeles.
In the 2003 book “Bad: Infamy, Darkness, Evil and Slime on Screen”, writer Aaron Baker (himself author of “Beyond the Thin Line of Black and Blue: Movies and Police Misconduct in Los Angeles”) claims that the character of Alonzo is an attempt to portray the rare blend of magnetism, animalism, and cold-blooded cruelty that these corrupt cops should possess. “The ‘Training Day’ characterization of bad cop Alonzo Harris is a composite of villains Rampart Perez and Mack [former LAPD officer David Mack, who was also involved in the Rampart Scandal]half-cop, half-gang-banger,” he says. “Like the two officers, Harris is a serious gambler with a Salvadoran mistress reminiscent of Veronica Quesada, the Honduran lover ) by Rafael Perez.
Upon his arrest, Perez struck a deal with the prosecution team and, during a series of interviews, spilled the beans on the CRASH teams’ epidemic corruption; eventually, he would serve three years of a five-year sentence. Mack, Perez’s former partner, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in connection with the bank robbery. Curiously, rumors have it that the two officers have been implicated in The Notorious BIG’s death for years.
According to PBS, upon Perez’s release, he told the court, “The us versus them philosophy of the overzealous cop began to consume me. We vaguely felt that we were doing the wrong things for the right reasons. Over and over times, I have stepped over that line, once crossed, I have crossed it again and again, landing with both feet, sometimes on innocent people.
Sounds like something Alonzo Harris might say. Further adding to the film’s realism, eagle-eyed viewers might notice that Alonzo’s license plate reads “ORP 967,” which would allude to officer Rafael Perez, who was born in 1967.