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Committee Rejects Panel on LAPD Bias Screening

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite recent calls to rid the Los Angeles Police Department of racist and sexist officers, a City Council panel Monday rejected a proposal to convene a panel of experts to suggest new ways of weeding out police recruits with such attitudes.

The council’s Public Safety Committee voted against forming the panel, saying police and city personnel officials already do enough to weed out recruits with “problem” attitudes.

Councilwoman Laura Chick, chair of the committee, said she was satisfied that the civil service interviews, psychological tests and background research that each recruit goes through are thorough enough to identify sexist or racist attitudes.

The proposal to form the panel of experts came from Councilman Richard Alarcon in the wake of the furor over racist statements made by LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman in tape recordings aired during the O. J. Simpson murder trial.

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In an interview after the vote, Alarcon said he continues to believe that the department could benefit from the formation of a panel of experts in the field of human relations and racism. He proposed that the panel study the city’s current procedure for weeding out such recruits and recommend improvements, if any are needed.

Alarcon pledged to continue to push for the panel. “I still believe that we need an outside look at what can be done,” he said. “I think the public would like us to have an outside panel look at it.”

Alarcon’s proposal may be revived Wednesday, when it is considered by the council’s Personnel Committee. When Alarcon initially made the proposal, it was endorsed by six other members of the City Council.

Police and personnel officials acknowledged Monday that the screening process is not without fault. But they told Chick’s committee that in the years since the infamous videotaped beating of Rodney G. King, the process has been under tough scrutiny from outside groups and does not need further study.

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“Our process is comprehensive, thorough and above what is required,” said Donna Denning, a city personnel psychologist. “It certainly exceeds what most other jurisdictions have.”

But she added that no process can identify every recruit who harbors a racist or sexist attitude.

“Any system can have a very, very, very small percentage of errors,” Denning said. “To me it seems a 100% errorless system cannot be achieved.”

LAPD Assistant Chief David Gascon said the best way to identify racist or sexist recruits is through background investigations before he or she is hired. Such investigations include interviews with former employers and co-workers, he said.

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But Gascon added that the department could use more funding to conduct those background investigations.

“If more resources are needed, make a beeline back to us,” Chick said.


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