Los Angeles Police Department detectives who specialize in gang investigations are reportedly leaving their street crime units in large numbers to avoid disclosing a wide range of personal financial information to the agency.
However, their counterparts in San Diego have been divulging much the same information for at least two decades.
The disclosures are intended to provide police agencies with data showing whether their detectives have questionable assets.
“It’s the units that have got access to cash, confidential information, valuable property, that kind of thing,” said Lt. Andra Brown, spokeswoman for the San Diego Police Department. “Where they could potentially be subject to bribes.”
Detectives on LAPD’s gangs and narcotics units must sign a disclosure agreement by March 29 allowing the department to see “the size of bank accounts and debts, including mortgages and credit cards,” the Los Angeles Times reported a year ago. If they do not sign, they will be reassigned.
The checkbook background checks are among the final reforms the federal government is requiring that LAPD undertake stemming from the Rampart corruption scandal.
This particular mandate is causing major upheaval, as the Associated Press detailed last week:
Gang units in some of the city's most violent neighborhoods are being left with multiple vacancies, with officers choosing instead to work regular patrol shifts, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said Monday.
One of the areas most affected is the city's northeast division, which includes territory controlled by the notorious Avenues gang around Highland Park. Rather than fill in financial disclosure forms, most of the division's anti-gang unit has decided to leave and return to patrol, resulting in an unspecified number of vacancies.
Detectives who refuse to sign the disclosures won’t face further reprimand by LAPD, said Sgt. Mitzi Grasso, a department spokeswoman. “We made it perfectly clear to the officers that it’s a personal choice, they will not suffer any retaliation.”
San Diego police officers that want to work on units dedicated to narcotics, gangs or intelligence have long been subjected to annual credit checks, Brown said.
But that isn’t the norm everywhere.
The Sacramento Police Department does not routinely examine any of its detective’s financial records, said Sgt. Norm Leong, a department spokesman. Instead, Sacramento police initiate internal affairs investigations as needed and have separate procedures to monitor large amounts of cash or narcotics the department seizes.
The LAPD disclosures, when initiated, would go much further than a credit check, looking at all of the detectives’ holdings.
Grasso said the department is working to ensure these background checks do not undermine gang investigations. LAPD does not yet know how many gang detectives it must replace.
Just south of Los Angeles, Brown said San Diego police have the opposite problem.
“We have more applicants than spaces to fill,” she said.