LA police snoopers had stars in their eyes

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The Independent Online
CONTRARY to popular opinion, the Los Angeles Police Department under its controversial chief Daryl Gates did not spend all its time beating up black motorists and shooting suspects in the back.

Instead, according to new revelations which have further embarrassed the City of the Angels, crack officers of the LAPD kept a detailed watch on the activities of Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford, and numerous other prominent people who are not widely regarded as threats to the social fabric.

Yesterday, Willie Williams, the new chief brought in to clean up the police department, shut down a special intelligence unit while he investigated charges that it spied on stars as well as politicians such as the late Robert Kennedy. The unit was supposed to be collecting intelligence on organised crime and street gangs.

Mr Williams acted after seeing an advance copy of a book by Michael Rothmiller, a former detective who alleged that the division acted as a CIA-style spy network accountable only to Mr Gates.

Mr Rothmiller, who worked for the division from 1978 to 1983, told reporters he had seen surveillance reports dating back about four decades.

Intelligence detectives amassed secret files on celebrities such as Rock Hudson, Streisand, Jackson, Redford, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, the boxers Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, and TV newswoman Connie Chung, he said.

Others targeted included politicians such as mayor Tom Bradley, former governor Jerry Brown, and the conservative commentator, Pat Buchanan. As there is not the slightest suggestion that any of them were involved in illegal behaviour, the reasons for spying on them remain a mystery.

Mr Rothmiller said that Mr Gates received unofficial 'white papers', garnered from informants and wire-taps, on the politics, finances and sexual habits of the unit's targets.

Mr Williams said yesterday he had suspended all activities by the Organised Crime Intelligence Division and stationed uniformed officers outside its offices to guard its files.

The city's first black police chief said he had seen no direct evidence of wrongdoing but promised to disband the unit if there was any truth in the claims.

Mr Gates, who was accused of fostering an atmosphere of recklessness that led to the videotaped beating of Rodney King, has denied the book's allegations. He described Mr Rothmiller as a disgruntled officer and claimed he was dismissed from the force for lying.

(Photographs omitted)