Concluding an investigation it assumed 10 months ago, the state attorney general's office announced Wednesday that it will not file criminal charges against any officers in connection with the Los Angeles Police Department's defunct Public Disorder Intelligence Division.
Deputy Atty. Gen. William R. Weisman, who wrote the attorney general's final report on the case, said he could not find sufficient evidence to pursue prosecution against Detective Jay Paul and a PDID lieutenant, both of whom were accused of mishandling sensitive police documents.
However, the 45-page report made veiled criticism of the department's management, and laid the blame for many PDID-related improprieties on ambiguous guidelines that have since been revised by the Police Commission.
"The evidence shows there was no consistent interpretation of the guidelines shared by the management of PDID and LAPD," Weisman wrote. "The lack of agreement and understanding . . . may demonstrate poor training, supervision and communication, but it precludes proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a willful criminal violation.
"The disagreement between the department and the commission over the correct interpretation of the guidelines is an issue subject to resolution by the City Council, the commission, the department and the city attorney," Weisman said.
Despite Weisman's assessment, Police Chief Daryl F. Gates seemed to welcome the report, which may bring to a close one of the most highly publicized controversies in recent department history.
"Many good officers . . . have been seriously harmed by this whole episode," Gates said through a spokesman Wednesday. "It has long since been time to get on with the job of protecting this city."
PDID was disbanded in 1983 by the Police Commission and replaced by a new Anti-Terrorist Division after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit, accusing the police of infiltrating and spying on 131 law-abiding citizens and organizations. The ACLU lawsuit was settled out of court in January, 1984, with the city agreeing to pay $1.8 million in damages.
Before the agreement with the ACLU was reached, an internal investigation of PDID activities disclosed that Detective Paul had stored confidential PDID materials at his home and provided sensitive information to a private right-wing intelligence gathering organization.
Paul was suspended, but a trial board later found that his activities had been sanctioned by his supervisors, and he was reinstated with back pay.
Another PDID officer, Lt. Thomas Scheidecker, also was accused of taking police documents home without authorization. After a hearing, he was suspended from the department for 15 days.
The attorney general's report suggested that Scheidecker and Paul were not alone in their misuse of PDID files.
"The narrow interpretation the department gave to the commission guidelines, the belief that items could be taken home and used for projects, and the limited nature of PDID internal audits, certainly contributed to documents being mishandled by many officers in PDID," Weisman wrote.
To determine if any criminal wrongdoing by PDID or department administrators occurred, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner in January turned over the district attorney's investigation on the intelligence division to the state's attorney general's office. The case was shifted because it posed a potential conflict of interest to Reiner, who had served as Los Angeles city attorney and, as such, had a lawyer-client relationship with the Police Department.