The Los Angeles City Council pulled rank on the civilian Police Commission on Tuesday, moving to review a controversial policy that requires hundreds of anti-gang and narcotics police officers to disclose detailed information about their personal finances.
The council's unanimous vote to assert jurisdiction adds to an already fiery debate over the financial disclosure plan, which has angered LAPD officers and their union leaders.
The action effectively delays the implementation of the financial disclosure plan until the council decides in coming weeks whether to overturn it.
"This policy raises a number of questions," said Councilman Jack Weiss, who sponsored the motion. "Will it do much of anything to detect bad cops and . . . will it have an overwhelming and negative and demoralizing impact in good cops?"
The unusual move was a setback for police commissioners and Police Chief William J. Bratton, who were hoping that the plan would be one of the last pieces in a sweeping set of reforms that began after the Rampart corruption scandal and has kept the Los Angeles Police Department under federal oversight since 2000.
Bratton and Commission Vice President John Mack expressed frustration after the vote, saying that the federal judge who oversees the reforms mandated in the consent decree has been adamant about the need for a strict disclosure policy.
"In the end there is going to be financial disclosure," Bratton said. "Nothing that is going to happen in [the City Council] is going to change the judge's decision, in my opinion."
The commission's policy, which the panel approved last month, is intended to help supervisors detect whether officers who frequently handle cash, drugs and other contraband are taking bribes or are involved in other illegal conduct.
Under the policy's terms, about 600 officers would be required to disclose to department officials any outside income, real estate, stocks, other assets and debts every two years. They also would have to reveal the size of their bank accounts and include any holdings they share with family members or business partners. Officers already assigned to the units would be granted a two-year grace period before having to complete the records.
But officers, police union officials and other critics have lashed out at the plan, saying that it would be an invasion of privacy and would do little to combat corruption.
Union leaders have filed a lawsuit that seeks an injunction against the policy and said that hundreds of officers have indicated that they would request transfers out of the specialized units instead of submit to the disclosure requirement.
"This definitely needs to be debated some more and that will happen now," said Tim Sands, president of the Police Protective League, after the vote.
Council members largely held off Tuesday from publicly debating financial disclosures for officers, restricting themselves to whether they should take over the issue from the commission.
It is the first time in more than five years that the council has trumped the commission. In 2002, the council balked at the commission's decision to no longer have police respond to unverified home and business alarms. After a year of studying the issue, a compromise plan was reached.
There is pressure on city officials to resolve the financial disclosure issue more quickly. Since 2006, when the federal judge angrily extended the consent decree because of the LAPD's failure to fully implement the reforms, Bratton, commissioners and others expressed hope that the department would be free of the expensive, restrictive decree by next year.
A long delay by the council, however, could jeopardize that timeline, Bratton and Mack said.
"We may run a potential risk if we go back again to being accused of, frankly, not operating in good faith in our attempt to satisfy this requirement," Mack told council members.