Police Officials Won’t Be Disciplined in Spying Case
The Los Angeles Police Commission will take no disciplinary action against the Police Department’s top management for the spying abuses of the disbanded Public Disorder Intelligence Division, commission President Stephen A. Yslas said Thursday.
“I think that the commission has responsibly concluded its duty,” Yslas said. “The commission has done what it’s going to do.”
Yslas said the commission effectively closed its books on the Public Disorder Intelligence Division affair on Dec. 21, when it transmitted to the City Council a six-page summary report that detailed the department management’s accountability for the division’s improper spying on law-abiding citizens.
The commission’s report said the Public Disorder Intelligence Division’s conduct “was the ultimate and direct responsibility of (the Police Department’s) top sworn management, including past and present assistant chiefs and chiefs of police.”
“It was under their stewardship that these improprieties occurred,” the report said. “It is they who must bear responsibility.”
The report did not mention by name the top police officials considered responsible for the division scandal: Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, former Chief Ed Davis and Assistant Chiefs Robert L. Vernon and Marvin D. Iannone.
The report also did not indicate whether any discipline would be imposed on those still in the department.
In his first public comments on the report since it was leaked to the press, Yslas said Thursday:
“In my judgment, this matter has been concluded. I think it’s time to put PDID behind us and focus on how well we can manage that important intelligence function through ATD,” the department’s Anti-Terrorist Division, which was established in 1983 after the commission abolished the Public Disorder Intelligence Division.
After being told of Yslas’ remarks, Gates said they “should have been made 14 months ago,” when the Police Commission and City Council decided to undertake a joint investigation that culminated in the report.
“But I’m pleased he (Yslas) made the statement” that the commission is finished with the Public Disorder Intelligence Division, Gates said.
“The door should be closed, and he’s correct, and I’m hopeful that he’s correct. I think that ends it,” Gates added.
In a joint statement on Oct. 23, 1983, with Councilman Marvin Braude, chairman of the council’s Police, Fire and Public Safety Committee, Yslas said the commission would undertake a thorough probe of the Public Disorder Intelligence Division scandal, transmit its findings to the council and then make an announcement to the public.
He said Thursday that “all those matters have been fully addressed by the report that was transmitted to the City Council.” However, it was learned that a lengthier report prepared by the commission staff was never sent to the council. Sources said the only copy of the longer report is being held under lock and key at the commission office in order to prevent it from being leaked to the press, as was the summary.
Braude agreed with Yslas and Gates that the controversy should be put to rest. He said he saw no need for further “blame and punishment.”
He noted that the City Council is now required to review the Police Commission’s annual audit of the new Anti-Terrorist Division. Other than that, he said, “there isn’t much more to be done” by the council.
“PDID doesn’t exist anymore. There’s a new attitude on the part of the department and a new energy by the commission. I feel good about it. In general, the Police Department is operating very well,” Braude added.
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, former chairman of the Police, Fire and Public Safety Committee and a persistent critic of the Police Department’s management, said he was “not surprised, but not pleased” by the commission’s decision to take no disciplinary action on the Public Disorder Intelligence Division matter.
“I’m not sure they have any choice in terms of disciplining the existing people, but I certainly hope the commission takes into account the action of the people involved when it comes to promotional opportunities,” Yaroslavsky said. “Anything short of that would be a complete whitewash.”
Yaroslavsky did not identify any individuals who might be seeking a promotion within the department, but his comments appeared to be directed at Assistant Chief Vernon, who has expressed interest in the chief’s job if Gates retires. Vernon declined to comment on Yaroslavsky’s statement.
Vernon, Iannone and Gates were specifically criticized for the police spying scandal in a preliminary report for the Police Commission by the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Rickershauser. The report was authored by attorney Daniel P. Garcia, a close ally of Mayor Tom Bradley.
However, the commission backed away from the Garcia report’s toughest allegations. The allegations accused Gates, Vernon and Iannone of misleading the public about the Public Disorder Intelligence Division’s activities, limiting the scope of the department’s internal investigation into the division and encouraging a narrow interpretation of Police Commission guidelines that prohibited spying on law-abiding citizens.
Gates, Vernon and Iannone attacked the Garcia report as severely flawed and said they are considering slander suits against Garcia’s law firm.
The Public Disorder Intelligence Division, the focus of criticism from liberal groups for many years, was abolished by the Police Commission amid disclosures that its officers had compiled intelligence files on judges, public officeholders and police critics.
One of its detectives, Jay Paul, it was revealed, had helped Western Goals Inc., a private, right-wing intelligence-gathering organization, build a computer data base on left-wing and liberal activists.
Paul was suspended and charged with nine counts of misconduct, but only one of the charges was sustained at his disciplinary hearing. The trial board concluded that Paul’s activities had been sanctioned by his supervisors, and he was reinstated with back pay.
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