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Police Union Elects 1st Woman to Board : Labor: Grasso wins race to remain as director of Protective League. Ruff is reelected president and says balloting reflects concern for diversity.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ten-year police veteran Mitzi Grasso--appointed to a vacant position on the Los Angeles Police Protective League board several months ago--Tuesday became the first woman elected to the board of the historically conservative union.

Board President Cliff Ruff, who had said his future as head of the league had depended on how well he balanced tough union boosterism with an outreach to the community at large, was returned to office by almost a 2-1 margin.

In the third board race, Dave Hepburn, a self-described moderate, defeated his opponent by a similar margin.

Ruff said the election results show “a change in philosophy in that they reflect our need to be flexible in respect to our community and to our diverse membership.”

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“There has been a lot of pressure, politically and internally, to have a board more reflective of our diversity,” he said. “It was extremely important for me to have Mitzi Grasso elected, because of her concerns for diversity.

“We now have three minority members--Dennis Zine, who’s Middle Eastern; Lenny Munoz, who is Hispanic, and Grasso, who is both female and Jewish.”

The board still has never had a black member. The only black candidate in this fall’s directorship races--Carl McGill--was defeated in a primary election.

Detective Sgt. Leonard Ross, president of the Oscar Joel Bryant Assn., a group founded by African American officers, was asked if the vote shows a trend toward less conservatism.

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“I would hope so,” Ross said. “Ruff has indicated a desire for significant changes. . . . I would hope Hepburn can be an influence to bring the board to a more moderate position where we can move forward on the issue of equal representation on the board. . . . If Mitzi’s gender and views can bring the board closer to achieving that goal, I welcome that.

“Hopefully, these will be the swing votes on issues that have remained unchanged for decades. We need reforms.”

Grasso said Tuesday that while she sees herself as “part of a group that is effecting change within the Police Department,” she is “not somebody who is radical in respect to change.”

She has indicated that she is attuned to department conservatives on several issues. For example, she has questioned the fairness of affirmative action “quotas” and has said racism among officers “sounds to me like more of a management problem. I don’t know if it’s a union problem.”

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Grasso--who became the first woman director in the league’s 72-year history when she was appointed to the board in August--has said the department’s women officers consider her ascension in the union hierarchy “very significant.”

The results of the mail-in balloting were tabulated shortly after noon Tuesday. Roughly 3,300 of the league’s 8,000 members voted on the directorships, which are full-time positions.

Grasso received 1,885 votes. Her opponent, Gary Rorgan, got 1,532 votes.

Ruff, a 31-year LAPD veteran, received 2,198 votes to 1,139 for opponent Thomas A. Dawson. It was an overwhelming victory compared to January’s, when Ruff won the presidency of the union over fellow league Director Bill Harkness by a mere 48 votes out of more than 2,000 cast.

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Ruff is considered more moderate than Harkness, who had the dubious distinction of inclusion on the Christopher Commission’s list of LAPD officers with six or more complaints over five years.

In the third board race tabulated Tuesday, Hepburn, a lieutenant in the LAPD’s Personnel Group office overseeing representation of officers facing departmental charges, received 2,901 votes to Joseph Peyton’s 1,046.

Times staff writer James Rainey contributed to this story.


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