Pubdate: Thu, 20 Dec 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times
Related: OPED: A Bad Way to Lose Good Cops
Bookmark: (L.A. Rampart Scandal)
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


It's Hard to See How Combing Through Police Officers' Finances Would 
Be a Useful Tool for Fighting Corruption.

The Los Angeles Police Department recently entered its eighth year 
under a federal consent decree that imposes strict mandates on 
operations and record keeping. The LAPD has modernized its procedures 
to root out corruption and purge from its ranks a Rampart-era culture 
of excessive force and false arrest. Full compliance with the decree 
is within reach, and it is tempting to urge the Police Commission to 
finish the job today by completing one final piece -- requiring full 
disclosure of personal and family finances by those officers in 
specialized units who in theory could be bribed because of greed or 
financial distress.

There's nothing outrageous about demanding that some members of the 
nation's preeminent local law enforcement organization make the same 
kind of reports required of FBI and other federal agents. And the Los 
Angeles Police Protective League, which adamantly opposes the 
requirement, only hurts its cause with its bullying claim that 
hundreds of officers would rather leave the department than let 
administrators know how much money they have in the checking account 
or how much they owe on the vacation condo. The union's knee-jerk 
rejection of financial disclosure is part of an unfortunate tradition 
of opposing disclosure of any kind. Union pressure already has helped 
strip the public of crucial oversight it long had, such as access to 
use-of-force reports and open discipline hearings.

And yet. It's hard to see how periodic financial reports would help 
LAPD brass nail corrupt cops. Officers already must submit to lie 
detector tests, and they now work in an environment in which stings 
are all but routine. Financial disclosure would do nothing to allow 
the public to monitor the kinds of corruption and excessive force 
that led to the Rampart scandal -- or the kind of management and 
training failures that produced this year's MacArthur Park fiasco.

The Police Commission has long been in need of the sort of backbone 
it lacked when the union pushed it to close the truly crucial records 
of officer misconduct. It would be ironic if the commissioners 
suddenly found the nerve to stand up to the union on this superfluous 

The judge overseeing implementation of the consent decree already 
rejected a compromise offered by the LAPD and the union, but the 
panel could call on the U.S. Department of Justice to revisit the 
requirement or, at least, seek an early sunset date from the court. 
Los Angeles has a citizen commission that should be able to 
distinguish between simply checking off a box on the consent decree 
and requiring disclosure because it's truly useful. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake