More than a decade ago, he was the central figure in a spying scandal that shook the Los Angeles Police Department.
But on Tuesday the City Council voted to honor Detective Jay S. Paul, who is leaving the department and moving out of the state, with a routine but effusive retirement tribute that made no mention of the undoing of the infamous Public Disorder Intelligence Division.
Instead, the proposal to honor Paul on Jan. 22 (his official retirement date) sticks to citing happier moments in the detective's 27-year career with the LAPD. Passed 11-0 without discussion at the start of the council session, the resolution talks about his nominations for detective of the year at the Pacific Division in 1985 and 1986, and for detective of the month at the Southeast Division in 1990.
It notes his 45-plus commendations for outstanding service and praises his role in designing computer systems for analyzing auto theft and burglary patterns.
The commendation resolution, which several council members said they acted on without paying attention, gives no hint of Paul's role in the controversial PDID. The unit was accused of keeping files on elected officials considered hostile to the LAPD and of infiltrating liberal organizations.
The PDID was disbanded by the Police Commission in 1983 and replaced by an anti-terrorist division after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit accusing the unit of spying on 131 law-abiding citizens and organizations. The lawsuit was settled in January, 1984, when the city agreed to pay $1.8 million in damages.
Before the suit was settled, an LAPD internal investigation found that Paul had stored confidential PDID files in the garage of his Long Beach home and had provided sensitive information to a private, right-wing organization. Paul was suspended, but a police trial board later found that his activities had been sanctioned by his supervisors, and he was reinstated with back pay.
The controversy over the PDID activities lasted for months, grabbing headlines regularly and prompting widespread criticism of the department.
"This is outrageous," Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU said upon learning of the council's action Tuesday. "Jay Paul betrayed this city; he disgraced the Police Department."
Several council members said the name did not ring a bell and chalked up the situation to the common City Hall practice of handing out commendations whenever longtime employees retire.
"These are honorary resolutions--nobody looks at them," Council President John Ferraro said. "The newspapers are the only ones that bring up dirt whenever somebody retires or dies," he joked.
A spokesman for Councilman Rudy Svorinich said his boss made the resolution at the request of the LAPD, which routinely seeks resolutions for its retirees. The Southeast Division, where Paul last served, is in the councilman's district. The spokesman said Svorinich was unaware of Paul's background.
"I don't know anything about the guy," Councilman Nate Holden said when asked why he was listed as seconding the motion to honor Paul.
"When somebody asks you to second something, you do it as a courtesy. That's the way it's usually done," Holden added.
Half joking, he hastened to point out that he had been late for the meeting and was not present when the vote was recorded, "so I didn't vote for it."
Ripston agreed that the commending resolutions are "insignificant" but said the City Council "really should put more thought into how they do this." She said the council members she contacted when learning about the commendation said that they were embarrassed.
Paul's last day at work was Dec. 29. A former co-worker said Paul was traveling and unavailable for comment.
Former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, who tangled with the council over the PDID and only reluctantly agreed to settle the ACLU suit, quipped Tuesday that the vote only showed that "a lot of people on the council don't know about a lot of things."
But he defended the commendation, saying that Paul was a good and dedicated cop who had "made a mistake" that Gates said was blown out of proportion.
"That was a very painful period in the LAPD history," Gates recalled, noting that the scandal brought worldwide notoriety to the department.
"He paid the price," Gates said of Paul. "He went through hell. But he went on and did very well. On balance, he deserves the commendation."