LOS ANGELES – Dozens of anti-gang police officers across the city are quitting their assignments over a requirement to reveal personal financial information under strict anti-corruption rules, The Associated Press has learned.
Gang units in some of the city’s most violent neighborhoods are being left with multiple vacancies, with officers choosing instead to work regular patrol shifts, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said Monday.
One of the areas most affected is the city’s northeast division, which includes territory controlled by the notorious Avenues gang around Highland Park. Rather than fill in financial disclosure forms, most of the division’s anti-gang unit has decided to leave and return to patrol, resulting in an unspecified number of vacancies.
Paysinger and other police officials stressed the reassignments would not affect public safety. The former gang officers — along with their street smarts and gang expertise — would remain in the neighborhoods they had long served.
The main difference would be that, as regular patrol officers, they would not be able to use some of the investigative techniques they could as gang officers.
“The community should not be concerned,” Paysinger said. “We haven’t backed away from our gang enforcement posture.”
The deadline for officers to sign the LAPD’s financial disclosure forms is the end of March but many officers are letting their superiors know ahead of time that they are declining.
The rules were mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice after a scandal in the late 1990s involving misconduct by anti-gang officers from LAPD’s Rampart division.
The rules require gang and narcotics officers to reveal portions of their personal financial records to the department and are supposed to snare corrupt officers in units frequently handling cash or drugs.
The police officers’ union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, has long faulted the requirements, saying they are onerous and sap morale, among other criticisms,
Paysinger said gang officers who chose to quit rather than fill in the forms did not have a full understanding of the policy, and said the financial disclosure forms were less intrusive than credit card applications
The departure of gang officers could put the cash-strapped department under additional pressure. Already, it has had to cut overtime to deal with a shrinking budget.
Despite this, the city last year recorded its lowest homicide rate in decades.