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Audit Finds Police Intelligence Unit Complying

Times Staff Writer

An annual audit of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Anti-Terrorist Division (ATD) has found that, with few exceptions, the secretive intelligence unit is complying with stringent guidelines intended to prevent improper police spying activities.

The audit, summarized in a 27-page report unanimously endorsed Tuesday by the Los Angeles Police Commission, found that ATD detectives on occasion in 1985 failed to adequately notify commissioners when “life-threatening” investigations were initiated.

Detectives also failed to close some investigative files per the unit’s commission-imposed guidelines.

However, none of the transgressions were significant or purposely misleading, said William R. Moran, the commission’s executive officer who prepared the audit.

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“It definitely is a much better division in terms of compliance,” Moran said. “I think street efficiency has improved as well.”

Among ATD’s highlights last year, according to the audit, was the March 1 arrest of Jose Santos Jr., a self-professed Filipino hit man. Santos had admitted to “committing numerous political assassinations in his native land” and is currently in custody pending deportation, according to ATD officials. The unit also was instrumental in capturing a cache of sophisticated firearms being stockpiled by members of two rival narcotics rings in South-Central Los Angeles.

ATD was organized in 1983 after its predecessor, the Public Disorder Intelligence Division, was disbanded amid revelations that detectives had improperly spied upon law-abiding citizens and organizations.

The ATD’s stringent guidelines were the result of an out-of-court settlement between the city and the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of more than 100 people and groups who claimed they were subjected to needless police scrutiny.

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On Tuesday, ACLU attorney Joan Howarth commended ATD’s efforts, saying her organization was “very impressed” with the unit’s progress.

Yet Howarth questioned the propriety of commission investigators spot-checking ATD detectives’ briefcases, lockers and desk drawers looking for improper intelligence files.

Such scrutiny, Howarth suggested, may violate constitutional protections that prohibit unlawful searches.


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