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LAPD Looks Into Drug Use by Officers

Times Staff Writer

A special team of narcotics and surveillance experts has been formed within the Los Angeles Police Department’s internal affairs division to investigate drug abuse among officers.

Police Cmdr. William Booth stressed that creation of the team does not indicate that the LAPD has an extraordinary drug-abuse problem, although the internal affairs division has investigated a growing number of drug cases in the last few years.

“There is a narcotics problem across the full spectrum of professions and occupations throughout the country, and this includes police,” Booth said Thursday. “We believe it is much less of a problem in the department than in society in general, but it does include us, and it is something we will not tolerate.”

Drug-related complaints investigated by the internal affairs division increased from 10 in 1981 to 35 in 1983, Booth said. During the first half of 1984--the latest figures available--there were 17 investigations, he said.

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Booth said cases of officers dealing in drugs have been rare. Most complaints involve the use of marijuana, he said.

The commander said he has no figures on the number of drug-abuse complaints that were substantiated, but he noted that “in general” 30% to 40% of all complaints investigated by the internal affairs division are sustained.

“Most often the penalty (for drug-abuse cases) is termination. And, if we can make a criminal case, we will prosecute,” Booth said. There are no figures on the number of former LAPD officers prosecuted for narcotics offenses.

Pilot Project

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The eight-member team was formed as a pilot project to avoid the disruptive effects of borrowing specialists from other divisions when help is needed in internal drug-related investigations, Booth said.

Two officers from the narcotics division and two officers skilled in surveillance work from the office of operations were recruited for the team. They join four internal affairs division investigators.

Booth added that the department also has problems with alcoholism, but “this is a different kind of problem than narcotics,” so alcoholic officers are treated differently. “Our most effective are Alcoholics Anonymous-type programs,” he said. “Our programs for dealing with alcoholics have been improved and expanded within the last three or four years both because it was necessary and because they are effective.”


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