Compromise on Hiring Female Officers Backed : Equality: Police Commission supports efforts to increase number of women in the LAPD. Panel stops short of endorsing an annual quota.


Members of the Los Angeles Police Commission, eager to push the LAPD toward hiring more women but reluctant to create legal troubles for the city, approved a statement Tuesday that attempts to forge a compromise on the politically volatile issue.

“The Board of Police Commissioners supports and encourages all serious and legitimate efforts to increase the number of women police officers through a vigorous recruiting program designed to increase the number of female applicants,” the commission statement said. “The commission has been advised by the city attorney’s office, however, that all legal ramifications must be explored before new hiring goals are pursued.”

The statement falls short of demanding that 44% of the Police Department’s annual hires be women--a target urged by leaders of the Women’s Advisory Council to the Police Commission--but members of the commission said it reflects the difficulty in trying to mandate such a goal. It also sets the stage for an upcoming City Council debate on the proposed goal; the council’s Personnel Committee is scheduled to take up that proposal in the coming weeks.


“The city attorney’s office has warned us that this is an area of danger,” said Gary Greenebaum, president of the Police Commission, who says the LAPD needs to increase its hiring of women. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of supporting a percentage figure that we can’t reach, but I also believe strongly that if you don’t set goals, you’ll never reach those goals.”

Some advocates of the 44% annual hiring goal were bitterly disappointed by what they considered the commission’s halfhearted statement.

“This is a Police Department that does not want to hire more women,” said Katherine Spillar, national coordinator for the Fund for the Feminist Majority. “The liability issue is a total red herring.”

The proposed 44% annual hiring goal for women in the department has stirred controversy since the idea was unveiled last year as part of a report by the Women’s Advisory Council.

That report, only the latest to cite the need for more female police officers, found that the department values physical strength over negotiating skills and complained that it has been lax in investigating complaints of sexual harassment and domestic violence by its police officers. One of the report’s central recommendations was that the LAPD increase the annual hiring goals of the department so that the representation of women in the department would match their presence in the work force--roughly 44%.

Several prominent women’s organizations have lent their support to the proposal, but some council members are privately worried that approving the goal could expose the city to liability if it falls short of achieving it. At the same time, they are concerned about the political ramifications of voting against an ambitious hiring goal for women.


Critics of the plan received support from a December city Personnel Department report, which warned that the city could be hit with lawsuits if it establishes an annual 44% female hiring goal for the LAPD.

Spillar said that is not true. She said more ambitious annual hiring goals would encourage the department to make faster progress in diversifying the police force and would reduce the city’s potential liability.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Police Chief Willie L. Williams pledged to pursue any hiring goal set by the city, but he emphasized the progress made in recent years in increasing the number of women on the force.

Under a court-approved consent decree signed 13 years ago, the LAPD pledged to make one out of every four new hires a woman. In addition, the city has adopted a more ambitious goal of annually hiring 30% women, a goal that it has met for several years.

As a result, the percentage of female LAPD officers has climbed from 2.6% in 1980 to about 15% today.

Although pleased by that progress, supporters of a more ambitious goal say the department needs to move more quickly, particularly as it embarks on efforts to implement community-based policing, a style of law enforcement that emphasizes communication and community outreach.


“They’re not moving fast enough,” Spillar said of the LAPD brass. “They’re dragging their feet.”