A U. S. Justice Department mediator has met with a top city official to discuss whether mediation is necessary to resolve allegations of racial discrimination on the Santa Monica police force.
City Manager John Jalili said he met for about 40 minutes on Monday with Vermont McKinney, a mediator from the San Francisco office of the Justice Department's community relations service.
McKinney contacted the city in response to a request from Norman Curry, president of the Santa Monica chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
McKinney "reiterated that he wants us to know that he is there to help us if we need his help," Jalili said.
A group of black officers has charged that the Police Department discriminates against minorities by denying them promotions. The Santa Monica NAACP later echoed the charges and called for a federal probe.
Specific charges of discrimination were not discussed in the meeting, Jalili said.
Jalili said he told McKinney that he would decide whether mediation is necessary after meeting next week with Curry. Jalili and Curry have met once already, and Jalili said he offered to allow Curry to participate in review of Police Department policies.
Police Chief James Keane and city Personnel Director Karen Bancroft were also present at the McKinney meeting, which Jalili described as "cordial."
McKinney's intervention would be limited to mediation. Any investigation would have to be handled by the Justice Department's civil rights division. A lawyer from that office contacted Curry last week to seek more information regarding the allegations.