Using the explosion in Oklahoma City as a pretext to further erode civil rights, the Los Angeles Police Commission has wiped out a ruling made in the 1980s that curbed some of the broad powers so often abused by the Los Angeles Police Department branch called the Police Disorder Intelligence Division.
The PDID, now known as the Anti-Terrorist Division, has been given the power to conduct investigations for 120 days using electronic eavesdropping--bugs and wiretaps--police infiltrators and civilian informants, without first obtaining a court warrant.
After the 120-day period is up the ATD must go to the Police Commission to get permission to continue the investigation or make additional arrests.
"This is clearly a case of overreaction. The American Civil Liberties Union forced the LAPD to stop conducting investigations in this manner, with such broad leeway, exactly because the LAPD was abusing its power," says John Daly, a Los Angeles organizer against police abuse who works with the National People's Campaign.
"These new emergency powers, which the police claim are to investigate groups 'linked' to terrorism, will undoubtedly be used like they were in the 1980s to harass and infiltrate groups on the left."
The 1984 lawsuit, which the ACLU brought against the city of Los Angeles on behalf of religious, civil-rights, environmental, and political groups and over 100 individuals, was settled by curbing the broad spying powers of the LAPD. The city also paid a $1.8-million settlement, according to the Los Angeles Times.
ATD Capt. Joseph Curreri also wants to share intelligence gathered through the ATD's restored powers with other law-enforcement agencies and unspecified private organizations. Curreri also wants the police to infiltrate religious or educational institutions and gather information on individuals who participate in nonviolent civil disobedience. The Police Commission is likely to grant these powers in the near future, the Times reported on April 21.
Daly says: "The solution to police abuse is to establish community control of the police. This decision to give the LAPD even more power to abuse was done behind the backs of the people in a time of crisis.
"You can't have the cops policing themselves, deciding when to give themselves more power. We should demand that the Commission and the LAPD be made up of people who truly represent the communities the police are supposed to serve."
Daryl Gates, the infamous chief of the LAPD during the beating of Rodney King and the rebellion that followed, said that allowing the ACLU to dismantle some of the power of the LAPD was "the greatest mistake I ever made."
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