CNS – A plan to require police officers who frequently handle confiscated cash and contraband to disclose personal financial details to LAPD auditors was unanimously approved Dec. 20 by the Los Angeles Police Commission.
In response, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents 9,000 officers, filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing that the state Constitution guarantees all citizens a right of privacy.
The financial disclosure policy, which is required under the federal consent decree, is an effort to prevent police corruption among officers in the anti-gang and narcotics units.
Officers in those units will be required to disclose all of their sole and jointly owned assets, liabilities and incomes every two years under the policy. Refusal to disclose such information would bar officers from working in those units.
Police Commissioner Alan Skobin said he does not believe the plan will identify corruption in the department, but that it will help end the federal consent decree agreed to by the city in the wake of a scandal in the late 1990s involving misconduct by anti-gang officers at the Rampart Division.
“I have no illusions that this particular financial disclosure will in any way identify or expose what I believe are very rare instances of corruption,” Skobin said.
“Quite frankly, it’s my belief that it will not. More importantly, I cannot look our officers in the eye and tell them that I believe the financial disclosure will do anything to improve the Los Angeles Police Department except help get us beyond the consent decree.”
The Los Angeles Police Protective League opposed the plan, saying it would be too intrusive and ineffective.
LAPPL president Tim Sands said more than 500 LAPD officers in specialized units will request transfers or retire before submitting to the “draconian” financial disclosure requirement.
“These financial disclosure requirements are a disaster for the city of Los Angeles and for its experienced and dedicated police officers. They will do nothing to route out corruption, but will reduce the ranks of qualified gang and narcotics officers, hut morale and disrupt recruiting. Los Angeles can do better,” Sands said.
Officers currently assigned to anti-gang and narcotics units will have two years to comply with the new policy.
Assistant Chief Sharon Papa said the department does not expect to see a wave of experienced officers leave or transfer, partly because transfer requests are granted based on the needs of the department.
Officers’ financial records will be kept in the office of the Chief of Police and reviewed by auditors within the department.
The LAPD has operated under the federal consent decree since 2001. The city of Los Angeles and U.S. Department of Justice presented a financial disclosure policy to the federal court last year, but it was rejected. The department’s failure to institute a financial disclosure policy was part of the court’s decision to extend the consent decree until June 15, 2009.
Gerald Chaleff, who oversees the LAPD’s Consent Decree Bureau, said he believes the federal agreement will terminate in about 18 months.
“We have achieved what was intended in the consent decree,” Chaleff said.