October 2010 Blue Line Article by Paul Weber

Financial Disclosure

It is a well-established fact that gangs are responsible for a significant amount of crime in our City. A reasonable person would think that the City and our Department must be doing everything possible to ensure the gang units are fully staffed with experienced officers and that vacancies are promptly filled. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

LAPD is struggling to fill increasing numbers of vacancies in gang units. The reason, as we have predicted for several years, is the implementation of the ineffectual, misleading and onerous financial disclosure rules that are now driving away the very officers we need for the tough gangland assignments.

The Department and City leaders have failed to make a case that financial disclosure is an effective tool to combat corruption. In fact, many have stated they are only doing this to “check the box” so we can get out from under the Consent Decree. This hardly qualifies as good public policy or a reason why rank-andfile officers are being asked to complete these forms.

I would like to know how many of the police commissioners and command staff have completed them. The public is being misled into a false sense of security that financial disclosure will prevent corruption and provide the Chief with an important tool in that noble cause.

What a joke! This boondoggle is a waste of scarce resources and provides coverage for failing to take the action needed to properly address this issue. The disclosure requirements are overly far-reaching. Officers in gang units must reveal outside income, real estate, stocks and all other assets. They also have to report the size of their bank accounts and debts, including mortgages and credit cards. The disclosures even apply to any financial holdings the officer shares with family members and business partners.

Many rank-and-file officers rightfully view the requirement as an insult and an invasion of their family’s privacy. They are justifiably concerned that if they sign the initial disclosure documents, the Department’s random audits will require even more detailed information to be explored and retained.

What happens when an audit finds perceived inconsistencies or lack of supporting documentation, or what if the employee no longer wants to comply with financial disclosure at the audit stage? I am sure we will see a new PSB section formed to deal with these types of issues.

Officers are also concerned because the information they provide the Department, along with their personnel files (including financial disclosure), is discoverable during a Pitchess motion — a request made by a defendant in a criminal action for access to information in the personnel file of an arresting police officer. (The name “Pitchess” comes from a 1974 California Supreme Court case, Pitchess v. Superior Court, and the Pitchess process is now codified in the California Evidence Code, Sections 1043-47.)

Imagine, you make an arrest, and the next thing you know the thug’s attorney is trying to use your personnel file, including your personal financial information, against you!

At the time the financial disclosure rule was implemented, the Department insisted the policy would have no impact on recruiting or retaining gang unit cops. That has not proven to be the case, as witnessed by diminished ranks in gang units throughout the City. Increasingly, calls for replacement officers are falling on deaf ears.

The entire League Board of Directors continues to advocate for officers to think long and hard before agreeing to sign invasive disclosure documents. Although it’s your decision whether to sign or opt out of a gang unit or narotics, I strongly believe signing is a huge risk.

I can think of many reasons to follow the League’s guidance on this very sensitive and important matter. Here are my top 10:

1. It is an unneeded intrusion of your privacy and those you love.

2. It will not prevent corruption.

3. It misleads the public into believing the Department has taken affirmative steps to prevent corruption.

4. This process subjects your information to discovery by the thugs you arrest and their attorneys.

5. This will lead to 1.28 investigations.

6. Once your information is in the public domain, it could end up on the Internet for anyone to see and use as they feel fit.

7. The Department’s record on securing personnel records is abysmal. (Go to our website LAPD. com to see all the news reports, blogs and press releases we have done on this issue!)

8. You were hired after a lengthy background that found you to be a person of high moral character. Nothing has changed in the intervening years.

9. The command officers and the police commissioners don’t want to be subjected to this. Why should you?

10. If we do not stand together on this issue, what will we stand together on?

We will continue to urge the Chief and City officials to rethink the consequences of financial disclosure. And we hope they do so before it’s too late to reverse a worsening gang problem.

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