For several years, the LAPD has had to live with the embarrassment of operating under the supervision of a federal judge, this stemming from a corruption scandal that involved everything from cops planting evidence to even shooting unarmed individuals. The so-called Rampart scandal is what brought William Bratton on a plane from New York to LA to become the department's chief and chief reformer.
Most of the issues governed by the consent decree have apparently been resolved and the court is phasing out its control.
But the recent revelation of the mismanagement and mishandling of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money at the LAPD raises its own set of questions about just how reformed the department really is after seven years of Bratton, and on its new journey with its former chief of detectives, Charlie Beck, at the helm.
As one member of the police commission, the civilian bosses of the LAPD, put it, referring to the new financial scandal, the good news is the department's own internal audit uncovered it. But the bad news is that it happened in the first place!
In fact, an independent audit by the city back in 2007 revealed many of the problems that have now come to light in this most recent report that was not completed until August. And, while the new audit covers fiscal 2007-2008, the police commission members were told at a public hearing last week by department officials that there is no reason to believe that the same blatant disregard for city policy on purchasing orders did not take place throughout most of the 2008-2009 fiscal year, too.
What this means is, despite being under federal court supervision for corruption, and despite having a reformer and outsider such as Bill Bratton as chief, others in the department apparently felt little pressure to change their fiscal behavior and inept handling of $60 million dollars or so of money belonging to the taxpayers of the City of Los Angeles. They failed to get receipts more often than not; and failed to get alternate bids for some contracts and purchases as required by city policy.
I've been told that at least one person in the department directly connected with the buying of supplies and material has now been transferred. In addition, the police commission has asked for an update on the audit in time for another hearing on the subject slated for February 2010.
What I have not heard as yet is that heads are rolling at the department. They should be! Can you imagine a civilian company with this sort of sloppy bookkeeping not undergoing a shake-up from top to bottom with lots of people responsible being shown the door? Of course not. The LAPD likes to take care of its own; always has. But that is exactly the sort of mentality that directly led to the Rampart corruption scandal where lots of people knew or suspected what was going on, but looked the other way, or worse.
Demoting a couple of key people, or shifting some people around to other areas of the LAPD, is simply not good enough.
Until those most closely associated with this financial fiasco are fired, the LAPD simply cannot claim to be truly reformed.
Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and the co-author of the book, "No Time To Think -- The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has covered the police and politics in Los Angeles since 1995 and currently contributes investigative reports to KNX1070 Newsradio