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Council OKs Anti-Bias Watchdogs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two years after the Police Commission proposed an independent unit to ferret out discrimination within the Los Angeles Police Department, the City Council moved Friday to establish such a unit for the LAPD as well as one for the rest of the city’s departments and agencies.

The council authorized the city to seek proposals from consultants to design the two anti-bias programs, which would handle complaints from employees about harassment and discrimination based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, and also conduct sensitivity training.

Although the units are expected to each cost about $500,000 annually, the council will not approve funding to staff the programs until the consultants’ proposals have been reviewed and one is selected. The police unit is expected to need about 10 employees. Both will be housed in a site that is separate from the departments they serve, and the two units will probably be combined into one eventually.

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“The biggest problem in people getting a complaint handled well is retaliation,” said council member Jackie Goldberg, who shepherded the plan through the council as head of its Personnel Committee.

“This goes to ending the retaliation. In doing so, we think people will come forward. We will save millions of dollars in lawsuits, we will improve the working environment. . . . We’re going to try and provide a way for people to not be silent and to not be retaliated against,” she said.

Police Commission President Deidre Hill, who along with Commissioner Art Mattox has been lobbying for an LAPD anti-discrimination unit, said the council’s move comes at a crucial time as racism in the department is under a harsh national spotlight because of the taped comments of former Detective Mark Fuhrman that were revealed during the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

“It’s money well spent in embracing those officers [who experience harassment] and giving them a supportive environment,” Hill said. “It sends a message that the mayor’s office, the Police Commission and the City Council are all concerned about discrimination.

“This is only a first step,” she added, “but it’s a good one.”

According to the motion approved unanimously Friday, the city will request proposals from consultants who want to handle the police investigation unit, the citywide unit, or both. The consultants should expect to “work themselves out of a job” within two to three years as the programs become self-sufficient, the motion states.


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