Officials soft-pedal cop threat

first_img“It’s not that we’re just losing officers who are assigned to these duties, it’s that we’re losing all the knowledge they have built up over the years that make them effective. “And, this couldn’t have come at a worse time when we are trying to crack down on gangs.” The Police Commission is scheduled to discuss the issue Tuesday, but Villaraigosa has asked for a delay so he can try to resolve the dispute. Bratton said the city is still negotiating with the PPL. “What I would encourage is for everyone to calm down for the time being,” he said. “The sky is not falling. The end of the world is not here. We still have time to work this out and resolve it.” Even if gang officers refuse to fill out the forms, the LAPD would have three months to implement the requirement, Bratton noted. “That is so far down the road of my focus right now,” he said. “The mayor’s focus right now is to see if we can’t find some common ground that the union, the department, the city, the monitor and the judge can all stand on.” The consent decree was developed in response to the scandal at the Rampart Division, where gang officers were accused – and several were convicted – of framing and assaulting gang members. Part of the decree included a provision that gang and narcotics officers provide financial disclosure forms so their supervisors could tell if they were illegally profiting from police work. Bratton and the city will be discussing the issue next week, when federal monitors arrive for their monthly progress report. The PPL’s Baker said the requirement would apply to disclosure of any holdings of an officer’s spouse and could even include information on their children or grandchildren. “We just think it goes too far,” he said. “We support random audits of police officers and other disclosure requirements, but this is going too far.” City officials had hoped to hit a June deadline for compliance with the federal consent decree to have it lifted in two years. They figured the biggest obstacle was implementing the TEAMS II computer system, which is designed to track officer conduct early on to prevent corruption. The system is expected to be fully phased in next month. The dispute comes at a challenging time for Villaraigosa, who recently unveiled a crackdown on gang violence, which soared 44 percent in the San Fernando Valley last year. City Councilman Jack Weiss, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, said he favors moving slowly on the issue. “This calls for a measured response and not a mad rush,” Weiss said. “In my five and a half years on the council, this has been the most challenging aspect of the consent decree, and I think we need to move carefully to serve public safety and the cause of justice.” However, Councilman Bernard Parks, who was police chief when the consent decree was adopted over his objections, defended the requirement. “We should not give in to the tantrums of a union that is spreading fear among its members,” said Parks, who clashed frequently with the PPL. “I don’t think we can lose sight of the fact that this was agreed to by the City Council and mayor at the time, the Police Commission and a board of rights. “It was put into place to instill public confidence that we have an honest police force. “It is the union that is going to make it more difficult for us to get out from under this consent decree if they pursue this course.” And Parks added that he believes Baker’s concerns about officer privacy are misplaced. “There’s never been a case where private information about officers has gotten out,” Parks said. “They are just creating this folklore of potential problems to justify what they do.” Officials with Kroll Associates, appointed by the courts to oversee the implementation of the consent decree, did not return calls for comment Friday. Meanwhile, Zine hopes the latest conflict doesn’t affect the department’s fight against gangs. After Rampart, the city disbanded the gang units, leading to an upsurge in violence, he said. “We had complete chaos and that’s why we have so many gang problems now,” he said. “We don’t want to see that repeated.” rick.orlov@dailynews.com (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Feess has already refused the PPL’s request to lift the requirement. The PPL has taken a stance against the requirement and encouraged officers to transfer to other positions rather than release information about their finances. “First of all, none of this is protected information,” said PPL President Bob Baker. “If an officer fills it out, it becomes part of their record and can be subpoenaed in court. “I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want some gang member having access to my bank account or Social Security number.” Councilman Dennis Zine, a retired Los Angeles Police Department sergeant who formerly headed the PPL, called the dispute “serious stuff.” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sympathized Friday with anti-gang officers who’ve refused to disclose their personal finances as mandated by a federal decree, and said he and LAPD Chief William Bratton are trying to work out a compromise. City leaders are negotiating with the Police Protective League over a requirement that the 600 officers assigned to LAPD gang and narcotics units disclose their personal finances as part of an effort to detect corruption. “This requirement is very difficult because … no other police department in the United States of America is required to fill out financial disclosures when they work with gangs at this level,” Villaraigosa said. “I understand why our officers – in a city where we haven’t had corruption on a scale and scope that other cities have – why they would be reticent to sign these financial disclosures.” In trying to avoid a showdown with gang officers, the city asked U.S. District Judge Gary Feess – who oversees the decree – to consider a plan that would instead allow random audits of gang-unit officers. last_img

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