August 2010 Blue Line Article by Hank Hernandez

Financial Disclosure Policy: Career Ender?

A nationally recognized expert on law enforcement administration attempted to assist the League in its legal fight against the financial disclosure requirements imposed on LAPD gang and narcotics officers by declaring, among other things, that the LAPD’s financial disclosure policy — implemented by Special Order No. 20 (2009) — is a reflection of an outmoded, putative, hierarchal model of police leadership, which has failed to deter or prevent corruption in the past.

More recent progressive thinking in police leadership stresses establishing a professional, problem-solving, public-service-oriented and participatory management structure fitted to a newer generation of officers who will be more responsive to motivational leadership than historical leadership models relying on rigid, military-style, topdown mandatory orders. More effective police leadership requires clear, reasonable rules and procedures, training and management practices that create a climate in which a professional-values culture is developed and nourished within the police agency.

In short, states our expert, the most effective prevention of corruption occurs when officers tempted to engage in corruption realize that their peers and supervisors will not accept it and will report it. In the LAPD, it is incumbent upon management to cultivate a climate that encourages pride and professionalism that nurtures the development of values among our young officers, creating zero tolerance for criminal acts by all officers.

In our view, the financial disclosure requirements of Special Order No. 20 are the antithesis of the more modern approach to policing. Its provisions are clearly reflective of old management attitudes expressing unsupported suspicion and distrust of rank-and-file officers and their supervisors.

As we all know, as Americans we live in a dynamic society characterized by frequent changes in residences, family status and financial worth. The current extreme economic crisis alone has resulted in dramatic, complicated changes in financial worth for many, if not the majority, of our country’s population.

These unusual changes would present most of us with the necessity for acquiring professional assistance in order to properly comply with the LAPD’s financial disclosure policy. Even with such assistance, it is likely that any number of officers who previously were likely to be regarded as financially secure, and not representing an inappropriate risk for special gang and narcotics assignments, might now be burdened with providing more extensive explanations about their private financial status.

We strongly urge all officers who are considering submitting to the financial disclosure requirement for an assignment to gangs or narcotics to consult with legal or accounting professionals, or both, prior to doing so — because, in our view, even an inadvertent mistake in the financial disclosure forms could be a career ender if viewed by management as a false and misleading statement made by an officer in an official report.

One last comment to LAPD management on financial disclosures: It behooves you to select the best-qualified and highest-caliber officers for assignment to Gang and Narcotics. It is not in the best interests of the people of Los Angeles to discourage good and qualified officers from serving in these important units, as your financial disclosure policy surely will!

Comments are closed.