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LAPD Faces Staffing Crisis in Hiring, Retaining Civilians

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Police Department, which already faces a hiring crisis for police officers, is having an increasingly tough time hiring and retaining civilian employees, who say the department’s stringent disciplinary system, poor working conditions and heavy workload are unpalatable, city officials said Monday.

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee was told the department needs to develop a better civilian training and development program, improve working conditions where possible and examine the hiring process to make it more efficient.

Moreover, City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, who chairs the committee, said the Police Department probably should not oversee efforts to improve its civilian hiring system, and she asked for a report to determine how best to proceed.

“I want much stronger involvement by other city departments,” Miscikowski said after the meeting. “This is a problem that’s been lingering and festering for years. It’s sort of odd, to say the least, that it’s only now being fairly comprehensively addressed.”

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The department appears to be far more aggressive in its efforts to boost its numbers of sworn officers, she said, and less forthcoming with proposals to deal with recruiting and retaining civilians.

“They have really embraced that [recruiting officers] is their problem. . . . I didn’t get the same sense of embracing the civilian side of it,” Miscikowski said.

The department has about 600 vacancies in its civilian ranks; the department would like a total of 3,600 non-officers.

Ken Crouse, the commanding officer of the LAPD’s personnel division, said the LAPD has no problem working with other departments to assess civilian positions. Further, he said a previous citywide hiring freeze--which was lifted for the LAPD before other departments--has resulted in many employees receiving transfers or promotions to other city departments.

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“We’re an attractive source [for other city departments] to recruit from,” Crouse said. “Our employees are sought after.”

While some of the vacant LAPD positions are clerical or administrative, many are critical to the department. They include 911 operators, jailers, forensic fingerprint specialists and polygraph examiners. Even some of the clerical jobs are considered essential to the department because they include computer data operators who key crucial information into the department’s crime database.

The department has been hiring about 200 employees a year since June 1994, but it has been losing 141 per year on average, according to a city report.

Sally Choi, an analyst with the city’s administrative office, told council members that while other city departments are experiencing similar hiring problems for many clerical jobs, the Police Department needs to focus more on retention.

“The hiring efforts are meaningless when attrition is so high,” she said in her report to the panel.

Exit interviews conducted in 1998 and 1999 show that a large proportion of the civilians who left felt underutilized. In addition, some blamed internal department politics on unfair promotions, and they criticized supervisors as poorly trained.

Crouse defended the department, saying that he believes these are isolated problems.


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