THE SIMPSON LEGACY : Just Under the Skin : LAPD's Cultural Awareness Course

While the Los Angeles Police Department was again coming under public fire in the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial, a long-planned program to heighten officer awareness of racial, gender and cultural differences began Sept. 19 in a standard-issue classroom in the Rampart Division. The goal is to improve relations and strengthen cross-cultural communications with the community, though it is too early to assess the effectiveness. The course is a response to the 1991 Christopher Commission recommendations and state legislation that instructed law enforcement agencies to develop training on cultural awareness and workplace diversity. Here is a snapshot of how the course works:


* Length: One eight-hour class

* Size: 35 people in each class, a cross-section of managers, supervisors and sworn and non-sworn officers from two bureaus. Aims include having each attendee know at least a few others in the class while maintaining high diversity of race and gender.

* Format: Four trainers for each class, with groups of six to eight people sitting at round tables so participants can speak directly to each other and no one can dominate the discussion.


* 10 minutes: Each participant writes down his or her feelings about coming to the required class. The card is tucked away until the end of the day.

* 10 minutes: Trainers lead a discussion on the meaning of diversity.

* 40 minutes: Participants are asked to reflect on the expereinces that made them who they are today.

* 40 minutes: Session on stereotyping and what people think about race and gender differences, the gay and lesbian community, and police officers, focusing on how stereotypes affect interaction.

* 20 minutes: Small group discussion focuses on personal examples of being excluded, ranging from being left off a sports team to overt racial discrimination.

* 2 hours: Class watches a videotape of a hypothetical white police officer and a black suspect, in which a black lieutenant intervenes to give his colleague a gentle lesson in cultural understanding. They learn ways to confront and resolve discriminatory behavior in the workplace and on the job.


* 3.5 hours: Using a series of case studies drawn from actual LAPD problems, discussion continues on ways to improve relations among police employees and with the community. Participants try out new techniques with role-playing.

* 30 minutes: For the final exercise of the day, participants reflect on what they wrote in the first minutes, which often is skeptical of the program, and consider how their impressions have changed.

The Face of the Force

How LAPD's racial makeup compares to the city in general:

Racial Breakdown


LAPD: 55%

City of Los Angeles: 37%


LAPD: 26%

City of Los Angeles: 40%


LAPD: 15% City of Los Angeles: 13%

Asian American:

LAPD: 5%

City of Los Angeles: 9%


LAPD: 1% City of Los Angeles: 1%

Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding

% of whites on LAPD: 1987: 69%, 1994: 55%

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