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Police Commission rebukes LAPD over paperwork lack

June 27, 2007|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

An LAPD audit found serious shortcomings by the 77th Division in its documentation of gang-related arrests and searches, prompting a rare rebuke Tuesday from the Police Commission.

Numerous arrests and searches made by the South Los Angeles station lacked the required signatures and proper documentation from watch commanders, creating a situation of potential misconduct, internal auditors warned.

Erin Kenney of the Los Angeles Police Department's Audit Division told the commission that without adequate documentation, the department had nothing to support a probable cause for searching a suspect.

Such documentation of gang-related arrests is a key part of the federal consent decree agreed to by the city in the wake of the 1990s scandal involving misconduct by anti-gang officers at the Rampart Division.

Police Commissioner Anthony Pacheco said he was "personally embarrassed by this audit."

"I think these numbers are horrible, and they've been horrible since 2006 and into 2007," he said. "I think that the department needs to be realistic that it's inappropriate to have decreases in performance."

Commission President John Mack said, "It is totally unacceptable."

Andre Birotte, the commission's inspector general, said that the numbers were a key part of the consent decree's requirements and that the latest decline was "a cause for concern."

"This is Year 6 of the consent decree. This isn't something new," he said. The decree was extended after an initial five years because the LAPD failed to meet all its requirements.

Watch commanders at the 77th Division station signed off on 36 of the 78 booking searches of suspects arrested in March, a completion rate of 46%, the audit said. A February 2006 audit found a 78% completion rate.

"The fact of the matter is there were supervisors who did not catch these issues [that] went unchecked," Kenney said. "We believe that there is more than just a low risk attached to these findings."

Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said the paperwork problem seems to stem from a lack of consistent training among a new staff of commanders running the station.

"Over the last several months, we changed over commanding officers and supervisors at that level, and it's really incumbent upon us to sustain that level of training," Paysinger said. "It is my personal pledge that we get our arms around this issue to make sure that we tackle it."

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