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Disclosure rule target of radio ad

LAPD union hopes to get the public on its side against a plan to force some officers to reveal their personal finances.

January 04, 2008|Tiffany Hsu | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police union officials hoping to sway public opinion against a recent anti-corruption reform have launched a radio ad campaign this week warning that forcing hundreds of narcotics and anti-gang officers to disclose personal financial information will prompt them to leave those specialized units and "cripple the fight against drugs, gangs and crime."

Talking over pounding, dramatic music, Tim Sands, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, asks listeners to imagine being forced to give a supervisor "all of your personal financial information, even when you had done nothing wrong, including all your bank account numbers . . . and those of your spouse, your children, and even your grandchildren.

"Would you agree to work under these conditions?"

Sands said the disclosure requirement exposes officers to potential identity theft and threatens their "safety, security and future."

The union's ad is in response to a plan approved last month by the Los Angeles Police Commission to require about 600 officers who frequently handle drugs and money to reveal details about their bank accounts, outside income, real estate, stocks and other assets or debts every two years.

After the commission's vote, the union immediately filed a lawsuit seeking to block the reform measure from taking effect.

The disclosure rule was prompted in part by testimony by a former Rampart Division anti-gang officer who said he regularly stole cash and narcotics from gang members and drug dealers. The rule is one of the reforms mandated in a federal consent decree, which city officials agreed to in the aftermath of the Rampart corruption scandal.

The decree is overseen by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess, who still must approve the commission's financial disclosure plan.

Police commissioners and other public officials said the union's ad, set to run for three to four weeks, is full of shaky assumptions and will not generate enough public support to prevent the disclosure requirement from being implemented.

"The league is launching an ill-advised campaign to amp up the heat," said Commissioner John Mack, who accused union officials of using scare tactics.

The ad's suggestion that "more than 500 officers are willing to leave their units rather than take the financial risk of sharing their personal information" is unsubstantiated, Mack said. He said any transfers would have to be approved by the department's leaders, and that they would not sanction a mass exodus.

"Ultimately, that's a decision that the chief of police and the command staff of the LAPD will make," Mack said. "The request for a transfer doesn't mean a transfer will happen."

Union officials acknowledged that they did not have an accurate count on how many officers would seek job transfers, but said they have heard from many of their members who have said they intend to request reassignments if the disclosure rule is finalized.

Commissioners said they also have responded to the union's concern that disclosing financial information leaves officers vulnerable to identity theft by adjusting the policy to ensure that all the records be locked in Police Chief William J. Bratton's office and destroyed periodically.

In the union ad, listeners are encouraged to contact their City Council members and tell them to support the officers so they can go "out there defending our communities against criminals, not having to worry about their families' safety, security and future."

Union officials said they hope council members will seek jurisdiction over the matter and overrule the Police Commission. Such an action would require the support of at least 10 of the 15 council members. City and police officials, however, said they don't believe there is enough support on the council for that to occur.

Councilman Dennis Zine, a former sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department, said he supports the union and considers the commission's plan to be excessive, but thinks the ad campaign puts unfair pressure on the council to resolve the issue.

"The league needs to deal with this in court -- the ad will generate some publicity but it won't solve the problem," Zine said. "We can send it back to the commission and then they'll just send it back to us -- it would be a volleyball contest."

A spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa added that the city is committed to implementing the disclosure rule because of the consent decree and that the union's protests won't change the terms of that agreement.

"The mayor doesn't like the decision any more than the cops do, but it's a mandate from a federal judge and we have no choice but to comply," Matt Szabo said.

Union officials said they may launch more radio spots and possibly some television ads based on the public's response to the issue. Sands said the league, which has used hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads in the past, would spend "whatever it takes" to educate the public about the issue.

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tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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