Terms to Be Offered in Police Bias Suit : Gays: Settlement would change policy on homosexual officers. Panel backs away from a ‘gag order’ on Gates.
After a rare closed session with the Los Angeles Police Commission, a City Council panel agreed Tuesday to make a settlement offer in a landmark lawsuit brought by a former officer who said he was drummed out of the force because he is homosexual.
The proposed settlement calls for policy changes in the way the department recruits and trains gay and lesbian officers, and in the way the Police Department handles claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky said. He would not provide specifics.
In another matter, the Police Commission stopped short of putting a so-called “gag order” on Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, who last week stirred controversy by sending a letter to the City Council in which he lobbied against proposals to reform the LAPD.
Commissioners--who are technically Gates’ bosses--have stated that they want Gates to issue policy statements through them, but they did not push the issue at their Tuesday meeting. Commission President Stanley K. Sheinbaum said after the meeting that he was reluctant to infringe on Gates’ First Amendment rights.
Gates, back at work after a monthlong vacation, indicated that he has no intention of being silenced. “Free speech is coming to the Soviet Union,” the chief said. “We don’t want to lose it here in the United States.”
The chief also said he has no objection to the proposal by the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee to settle the 1988 gay rights lawsuit brought by former LAPD Sgt. Mitchell Grobeson.
This may be a turnaround from the chief’s stance last year, when he scuttled a proposed settlement by vehemently arguing against a provision that would have made the LAPD the first police department in the nation to have a written policy mandating the recruitment and promotion of homosexual officers.
Since that time, the Police Commission--acting over Gates’ objection--has ordered that uniformed officers be permitted to staff recruitment booths at gay and lesbian community festivals. The recruitment efforts marked the first time that LAPD officers have publicly disclosed their homosexuality.
In addition, the commission is considering whether to adopt a policy that would require the department to continue such recruitment efforts. Sheinbaum said Tuesday that the commission’s plan may help speed a settlement in the Grobeson case.
Ultimately, the settlement would have to be approved by Grobeson and the full City Council.
Yaroslavsky , who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, said he believed that the two sides were not far apart.
Grobeson said Tuesday that his goal is to return to work at the LAPD and to “oversee the changes in the department from a department that discriminates and encourages harassment to one which has the goal of judging people on their merits.”
In his lawsuit, Grobeson said he had no choice but to resign from the force after fellow officers repeatedly harassed him, leaving offensive comments and cartoons on his locker and refusing to provide him with backup in dangerous situations.
Grobeson’s lawyer, Dan Stormer, said he would welcome the settlement offer. “I think there’s been a lot of politics played with the case and I think its now time to get down to brass tacks and settle the issues,” Stormer said.
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