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How Best to Protect and Serve : LAPD should accept the state critique on Latino promotions and do a better job

Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates takes great pride in his department’s reputation as one of the best in the world. So do the 21% of LAPD officers who happen to be Latino--despite the fact statistics clearly indicate they have not always gotten a fair share of promotions. That’s why it would only worsen a needless estrangement for the LAPD brass to fight a state agency’s formal complaint that Latino officers are being held back by inconsistent personnel policies and inadequate affirmative action programs in the department.

The complaint was filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which monitors for discrimination both private and public employers in the state.

The agency began looking at the LAPD’s promotion practices in 1988 at the request of the Latin American Law Enforcement Assn. (LA LEY, Spanish for “the law”)--a 1,000-member organization of Latino police officers.

Among the troubling statistics state investigators compiled: Latinos in the LAPD are promoted at rates well below their Anglo counterparts. Last year, for example, 27% of the Anglos who applied for promotion moved up while only 16% of the Latinos did. This despite the fact that for a decade the LAPD has conducted an intensive recruitment effort to bring more women and minorities into its ranks.

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The state filed its complaint in order to take the investigative process to the next step: negotiations. During negotiations, state specialists will probably move to advise the LAPD on changes that need to be made in its testing and interview procedures to make them fairer to Latino officers. The LAPD can either settle the case or contest the issue to an administrative law judge and the state Fair Employment Commission.

But fighting this case would only make matters worse. It would convince many Latino street cops that their superiors either don’t know what’s going on or won’t admit it. Worse, it would put Gates and other LAPD brass in the same stubborn stance Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors have taken--wasting money fighting a discrimination case when the evidence clearly shows discrimination against Latinos.

This matter should be settled as quickly and constructively as possible. It’s the right thing to do. And if the department brass won’t make that decision on its own, Mayor Bradley, his Police Commission and the City Council must insist on it. To needlessly fight this matter any further would be beneath the stature of the LAPD.


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