While Contessotto asserted that both the $6,000 and missing records were under Francis' control, Francis denied it. In an interview, she said the records were kept in a filing cabinet in her office that frequently was unlocked. The chief and the department's two captains also had keys to the cabinet, Francis said.
"Everybody had access to that office. It's like Grand Central Station," Francis said.
Note Missing From Drawer
Francis said she wrote the combination to the chief's safe on a piece of paper that she kept in her drawer. The paper subsequently disappeared, she said. "There's a lot of people who have access to the safe," she said, maintaining that she did not know anything about the missing money.
Francis altered records for the required monthly shooting drills "dozens of times for selected personnel," Contessotto said.
Contessotto said he found out about the falsified scores from two officers who came to him sometime after the secretary left her job in August, 1985. He said the allegations were rumors at that point that were not immediately investigated because "That was not on my list of priorities at the time."
Asked last week to be specific about when he learned of the altered scores, Contessotto gave two answers, saying at one point it was in September, 1985, and later saying he found out around the month of July, 1986. He declined to clarify the discrepancy. He repeatedly refused to answer whether any officers were disciplined for the falsified scores.
The department is now reviewing shooting records to determine which officers profited from the falsified scores, adding that some of the records may be missing.
"I don't know if the records are still available," Contessotto said in an interview last week. "If they are we will certainly take the actions that are needed."
Mum on Probe's Beginnings
Contessotto last week refused to say when the investigation of the falsified scores began.
In several interviews over the last few weeks, Francis confirmed that she had altered marksmanship scores, saying, "I'm not going to deny that about the marksmanship. It was more of a hassle (to keep the books) when they didn't qualify."
"It's a lax department, there are no controls," she said.
She said she changed the scores "just a few" times to benefit about five officers in 1985, just before she left. "I just didn't care anymore," she said, adding that the officers asked her to do it as a favor, telling her that they had either lost their shooting scores or had come within a few points of passing.
Contessotto's department is under investigation by Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner. Two former Huntington Park police officers were held to answer this month for allegedly torturing a juvenile with a stun gun. Based on evidence found in connection with that case, Reiner has said he would investigate the practices of the entire department, which he said were "frankly embarrassing to all of law enforcement."
The department, according to a Times survey last year, had the highest frequency of brutality claims in 1984 and 1985 in the Southeast Los Angeles County and Long Beach areas.