LAPD gang units dismantled in some high-crime areas

Joel Rubin and Scott Gold (Los Angeles Times) | February 2, 2011

The Los Angeles Police Department has temporarily dismantled anti-gang units in several of its most crime-plagued neighborhoods because officers in those squads refused to comply with a controversial financial disclosure rule that they view as misguided and invasive.

Police officials have sent the defiant officers back to regular patrol duties and expect that it will take several months to rebuild the gang units with others willing to abide by the policy, which requires officers to periodically submit information regarding their assets and debts. Until then, patrol officers have been saddled with trying to keep up with gang-suppression efforts, a move some gang unit supervisors and community advocates fear could lead to an erosion of expertise and hard-fought gains in reducing gang violence and crime.

“There is definitely a concern that we might start to lose some of the ground we’ve gained,” said Sgt. Randy Goens, a veteran gang supervisor in South Los Angeles who reluctantly plans to complete the disclosure form.

“They have an essential role,” the Rev. Ben “Taco” Owens, a former gang member who is now a prominent gang interventionist, said of the gang officers. “They are familiar with the gangs. They are familiar with the community…. They won’t be around. It’s detrimental.”

The disclosure policy is intended to help identify and deter corruption among the estimated 600 gang and narcotic officers who frequently handle cash, drugs and other contraband. Adopted nearly two years ago, the plan gave officers who were already assigned to the units until the end of March to abide by the new rules or be moved back to regular patrol assignments.

Few narcotics officers objected, but discontent among gang officers has persisted. In recent months, field commanders have grown increasingly worried that the March deadline would not leave them enough time to recruit and train new officers before the onset of summer, when gang crime traditionally spikes. Department officials required officers to declare their intentions in December and gave commanders permission to take action before the end of March.

About three-quarters of the officers agreed to the disclosures, according to LAPD estimates. There were, however, significant holdouts: All but one of the roughly 80 gang officers in the department’s Southeast, 77th, Northeast and Hollenbeck divisions — areas that are home to some of the city’s most violent and active gangs — refused, LAPD officials confirmed. Likewise, all members of the smaller gang teams in Van Nuys and Devonshire said they would not adhere to the policy.

“The bottom line is it isn’t going to be effective and it’s insulting. If we were dirty, we wouldn’t be putting cash into a bank account,” said a veteran gang officer who, like others, asked that his name not be used because of concern that he would be disciplined. “It’s a matter of principle.”

In response, the LAPD captains in charge of those six divisions disbanded the gang units and have begun rebuilding them. Instead of keeping some or all of the veteran gang officers in the units until the end of March to help train new officers, field commanders said they decided it would be better to move them out at once and as early as possible. That decision was made in part to avoid possible tensions between the outgoing and incoming officers.

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Posted by on Feb 2 2011. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Comments for “LAPD gang units dismantled in some high-crime areas”

  1. Gang cops dont want to complete financial disclosure statements. These officers could never work for the Feds, because they require the same statements too.

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