The Los Angeles Police Commission approved a five-year affirmative action plan Tuesday to increase the number of Latinos on the police force and in command positions where they have been especially under-represented.
The plan’s goals include a sixfold increase in the number of Latino captains and a threefold increase in lieutenants by 1993. The number of Latino officers would nearly double.
“It’s a very significant step for a large urban department like this,” said R. Samuel Paz, an attorney with the department’s Hispanic Advisory Council. “We’re pleased that the commission was able to get the department to move on the issue. It’s not as fast as we’d like, it’s not as big a step as we’d like, but it’s a lot better than going backwards.”
Few in Top Ranks
Paz said the plan was necessary because, although substantial progress has been made in recruiting and hiring, Latinos are not equally represented in the higher ranks. According to police statistics, only one of the department’s 16 commanders was a Latino as of June, 1988, and Latinos made up only 5% of the LAPD’s captains and 10% of lieutenants. Citywide, Latinos constitute about one-third of the population.
Under the plan, Latinos would make up about 31% of the department’s lieutenants and captains by 1993. Three more Latinos would be promoted to commander.
The goals were established by a commission subcommittee, headed by the panel’s only Latino, Stephen Yslas.
“It’s important that the city have a department that is reflective of the population,” Yslas said Tuesday. He said drafting the plan was “an arduous process” that took five years to complete because of resistance from some police officials. “There’s always reluctance to change,” he said. “It’s not surprising that it takes time.”
Some Are Skeptical
Representatives of the Latin American Law Enforcement Assn., a group of 600 Latino police officers, remain skeptical, however.
“I don’t think it’s feasible within five years,” Laura Hernandez, the group’s vice president, said. “It looks good on paper, but I’ll wait until I start to see some positive changes.”
The LAPD first agreed to a sweeping hiring program for minority officers in 1980, as part of the settlement of two lawsuits. Since then, the number of blacks and Latinos on the force has nearly doubled, police officials said.