Panel Proposed to Help LAPD Identify Racist Recruits
Fallout from the O.J. Simpson trial continued Wednesday as a Los Angeles City Council committee endorsed a plan to convene a panel of experts to suggest new ways to weed out police recruits with racist and sexist attitudes.
The council’s personnel committee also instructed the general manager of the city’s Personnel Department and the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department to recommend several people to sit on the proposed panel.
The idea of forming a panel came from Councilman Richard Alarcon following the discovery of tape recordings during the O.J. Simpson murder trial of LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman making racist comments.
“There has been an overwhelming cry in the community to do something about racism in the Police Department,” Alarcon told the committee.
He suggested an advisory panel of about eight members from the field of human relations.
However, city personnel officials and psychologists for the Police Department were lukewarm about the idea, saying the process used to identify bias among recruits has already been reviewed many times since the infamous 1991 videotaped police beating of Rodney G. King.
The city currently relies on civil service interviews, psychological tests and background investigations to determine if a recruit has sexist, racist or other hostile attitudes.
“We have nothing to hide, but we believe we are either the best or among the best in the nation” at screening candidates, said Raymond C. Allen, assistant general manager of the Personnel Department.
Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, head of the council’s personnel committee, said a review of the city’s process by a panel of experts would not hurt and would reassure the public that the city is doing everything to weed out problem recruits.
“What people need is assurances,” she said.
The proposal had been rejected earlier this week by the council’s public safety committee, whose members said they were assured that the police and city personnel officials already do enough to screen recruits.
But because the proposal was referred simultaneously to two council committees, the personnel committee’s support keeps the plan alive. A final decision, however, will have to come from the vote of the entire City Council sometime in the next month.
Councilwoman Laura Chick, who heads the public safety committee and sits on the personnel committee, continued to raise questions Wednesday about the need for what she called “an additional layer” of review.
During the personnel committee meeting, she asked for more details about the responsibilities of the panel, but she did not object when Goldberg instructed the personnel director and the police chief to recommend names for the panel.