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Saturday, January 3, 2009

LA TImes OPINION: Should Cops Disclose Assets?

Should gang cops have to disclose their assets?
The Los Angeles Times by Robert Greene - December 29, 2009

Monday's Times story on the LAPD's difficulty filling gang units in the face of new financial disclosure rules reminded those of us on the editorial page of the ground we staked out two years ago -- against adopting the new rules. The page has long been solidly in favor of public disclosure of police business, so it's worth noting that we went the other way on this issue. "It's hard to see how periodic financial reports would help LAPD brass nail corrupt cops," we wrote on Dec. 20, 2007. "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 position is neither a departure nor counterintuitive for an editorial page that has called repeatedly, and as recently as last month, for public disclosure about officer discipline. This new rule -- requiring applicants to special LAPD gang enforcement units to disclose data about their (and their spouses') mortgages, bank accounts and other personal finances -- doesn't tell the public anything about the officers who are supposed to protect and serve them. It does allow police brass to delve deeply into their personal affairs. That would be fine if the LAPD were able to defend its assertion that the data are needed to prevent a rogue cop from taking bribes, planting evidence or engaging in other wrongdoing. But the department hasn't made the case.

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