Los Angeles police officers assigned to fight gangs are walking away from their jobs en masse because they don’t want to disclose to their bosses details of their personal lives, says Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks. They consider insulting, invasive and potentially dangerous a rule aimed at ferreting out corruption by requiring gang and narcotics officers to submit personal financial records for scrutiny. Gang units have been temporarily disbanded in six of the 21 police divisions.
Banks speculates that with violent crime at its lowest level in more than 30 years, a new generation of officers could now make its mark in the gang units. Police tactics have changed from banging heads and battering down doors to enlisting others in community efforts. Connie Rice of the Advancement Project, who has studied gang officers for years, opposes the disclosure rules and isn’t surprised that gang officers balked: “When you’re out there in a gang unit, it’s just you and your partner, it’s 2 a.m. and everybody on the street has a gun. I think the gang officers feel more endangered, like they’re dangled out there as bait, and no one really understands what they face.” Adds Rice: “The officers who care more about the community and its safety than about their own personal rights, they’re not yet in the majority.  What you need is for them to think ‘I hate this rule, but I’m going to do what’s good for the community.’ About half of them get that. And that’s not enough.”