Before there was Rampart, before there was Rodney King, there was what was arguably the darkest, most scandalous chapter in the Los Angeles Police Department’s history: The era of secret dossiers on prominent people. The abuses of that era were so serious, so un-American, that there never should be the slightest possibility of them ever recurring. As late as the 1980s, the LAPD kept extensive dossiers about prominent individuals and organizations in the city, essentially using the dirt as political blackmail. It was a disgraceful period that sullied the department’s reputation and undermined the public’s confidence in the LAPD. In 1984, following an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit and a $1.8 million settlement, the department agreed to regularly audit its secret investigations, and allow the civilian Police Commission to oversee the audits. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week But the legal settlement expired in the mid-1990s. And now the Daily News has disclosed that the department seems to have stopped performing the audits altogether in fiscal 1997. As far as the public’s concerned, there’s no way to know whether the department is using its anti-terrorism powers ethically or not. And with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the War on Terror, this is an issue of considerable concern. There is an urgent need to prevent attacks before they happen, so the need for spying is greater than ever. And by extension, the greater need for spying, as well as the broad license afforded by laws like the Patriot Act, compound the potential for abuse. That means that civilian oversight is critical. Law enforcement must have every tool at its disposal to protect the public, but the public must have assurances that law enforcement is using those tools properly. There is no excuse for the Police Commission to fail in its duty to provide adequate oversight of anti-terror investigations. If it’s a matter of manpower, as some suggest, then the LAPD should reconsider its three-day workweek. There’s nothing more important that a police department can do than protect its integrity and maintain the trust of the public. It’s time to bring back the audits, lest the LAPD even give the appearance of returning to its disgraceful old ways.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!