Last week, City Councilwoman Laura Chick raised serious questions about "Project Safety L.A.," Mayor Richard Riordan's plan to expand the police force by more than 2,000 officers. And the City Council decided to delay approval of a $747,000 expenditure for police recruiting until a Sept. 27 public safety committee meeting. But the pace of hiring police officers has not been interrupted yet.
The catalyst is the recently released tapes of retired LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman, a witness in the O.J. Simpson case, who was recorded making several racist and sexist comments about blacks, women and others. Chick suggested that the rapid hiring may be incompatible with other goals for the Police Department, such as rooting out racism and sexism.
Should the hiring of LAPD officers be slowed down?
Laura Chick, Los Angeles city councilwoman:
"Certainly we should be allowed the time to ask questions that put our mind at ease. . . . We have to make sure that not only are we screening recruits properly but that once we are putting them out of the academy and into the field, the experienced training continues in the best way. . . . We've been hearing a lot about racism, sexism and human relations which are pretty important things that officers need training in. . . . The No. 1 thing citizens want is a quick response to their problems and concerns. Then, they also deserve to know that once the police are there they will perform a thorough and effective job."
Bert Boeckmann, Los Angeles police commissioner:
"It's like any business. If you have a problem, you don't stop everything you are doing and focus on the problem. If it means that you have to take away the resources to address the problem, then I would agree that we should slow down the [hiring] process. But I don't think that's the case."
LAPD Cmdr. Tim McBride:
"Our answer is that we're in a rapid hiring mode because we need those people on the street, and the people want those people on the street, and we don't believe that would compromise our hiring standards. . . . But we have admitted this is taxing the people involved in the process . . . but we don't think we've compromised anything. . . . Hiring always was and always will be an imperfect process. First of all, people change after they are employed, and there are some people who are able to conceal biases before they become employees. . . . But we think with our new hiring and cultural enlightenment training--both in the field and in the academy--we will be doing the best possible job to make sure those biases don't come out in their assignments as police officers."
Sgt. Jeri Weinstein, West Valley LAPD:
"Yes. There are a number of reasons. First of all, we don't have the facilities to accommodate the officers they want in the divisions. We don't have nearly enough officers to act as training officers. We've got to a point where we aren't hiring the best person for a job. . . . The main focus right now should be on improving conditions and leading the officers so that we have a strong, competent force here now and hire the best people for the jobs."