Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates told a gay Republican group Tuesday that he had "no doubts that there are gay and lesbian officers in the department," but emphasized that he felt no obligation to recruit openly homosexual officers.
"I'm not going to go out and determine what your sexual preference is," Gates added as he spoke to the Log Cabin Club of Los Angeles County. "I just want good police officers."
Gates, whose appearance at the Hyatt Sunset Hotel in West Hollywood was the first by a Los Angeles police chief before an avowedly gay organization, told an applauding audience that "any of you who know people who want to be police officers, send them down."
The chief's appearance resulted from tensions between the gay community and the Police Department.
Last November, for example, 150 citizens met to complain about the way police handled an overcrowding incident at a gay bar in the Silver Lake District.
Police said they cleared the One Way bar after fire officials found 286 people there, about three times the permitted capacity.
But gay community leaders said the incident brought back memories of what many considered were anti-gay raids on some Los Angeles bars in the 1970s.
To mark his unprecedented appearance before a gay organization, Gates said, "I thought I should have something momentous to say. But I really don't."
He described the department's efforts to suppress street gangs and drug trafficking, leading a questioner to later ask why officers are involved in clearing bars when drugs and gangs are such problems.
The officers are there, the chief quipped, "because the damned Fire Department calls us." He added that he and fire officials have agreed that police will no longer be involved in enforcing overcrowding ordinances unless the Fire Department "has a problem."
And Frank Ricchiazzi, executive director of a local gay political fund-raising group, said "maybe it's time for us to find out which bar owners are putting us in danger by this overcrowding."