We're all used to that argument by now. "Well, if you've got nothing to hide then you won't mind peeing in this cup, or letting us search your car or house." Its a foolish argument that ignores the right to privacy and security, suggesting that anyone who wishes to protect such rights is guilty of something.
But here is an interesting twist on things. Usually its police officers spouting this line, but in Los Angeles, CA, the Gang and Narcotics units of LAPD are having this line used on them. The Los Angeles Police Commission has unanimously approved that officers must reveal their personal finances including everything from overdue credit-card statements, checking accounts, properties, to stocks and bonds. The Los Angeles Police Protective League has already filed a suit citing invasion of privacy and violating union member's rights.
Why is this happening? Its an effort to crack down on police corruption since the Rampart Scandal in the late 1990's implicated over 70 members of the LAPD's CRASH unit in corruption that included selling and planting drugs, beatings and shootings, and even bank robbery. However, my question, and that of over 500 LAPD officers who are threatening to leave, is how will looking through financial records reduce corruption and misconduct?
Forcing people to disclose this amount of financial information is not the right way to go about stopping police corruption and we all know this corruption is real and that it needs to stop. Lets look at the big picture here. The units being targeted are Gang and Narcotics. Why? Because these are the units that deal with and proliferate the mess created by the War on Drugs. This corruption is related to the illegal drug market. Police can steal from and work with drug dealers because there is not proper regulation and all the money involved is cash!
I suggest going to the root of the problem. End the War on Drugs. In fact, I think if LEAP starts contacting some of these officers and suggests that it is the War on Drugs causing this violation of privacy we can expect some new anti-prohibition police officers in an area where they are needed most.
Think about it. Get rid of the black market for drugs and you get rid of drug dealers and the profit they bring to gangs. Therefore the need for a Gang unit is drastically decreased as is gang or prohibition related violence. The need for a narcotics unit will also decrease once we start dealing with drug addiction as a health issue and not a criminal justice issue. Because treatment cost less and is more effective than incarceration, we will see a decrease in addiction and the freeing up of tax dollars that could be used for effective drug abuse prevention education programs for youth (not DARE).