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Gates Backs 33% Boost in Latino Recruits

March 10, 1987|DAVID FREED | Times Staff Writer

Police Chief Daryl F. Gates has tentatively endorsed a recommendation by a citizens advisory group to increase by 33% the number of Latino recruits entering the Los Angeles Police Academy.

In a written response to a report to be considered today by the Los Angeles Police Commission, Gates said the increase may be needed if the city's predominantly Anglo police force is to achieve ethnic parity with Los Angeles' growing Latino work force.

"The department recognizes the immense value of having a work force representative of the population it serves . . . ," Gates said. "While the actual current representation of Hispanics in the work force is unknown, given the estimates of various governmental agencies, 30% appears to be a reasonable recruiting and hiring target."

Currently, Latinos must represent at least 22.5% of each class of recruits entering the Police Academy. The annual goal, and an identical target figure for black recruits, was established in 1981, when police administrators entered into a consent decree after a lengthy court battle with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The consent decree also requires that 25% of sworn personnel hired each year by the department be female.

Such hiring practices are to continue until women make up at least 20% of the police force and the combined percentage of blacks and Latinos is at least proportionate to their numbers in the Los Angeles-area labor force. According to 1981 census estimates, blacks and Latinos represent about 45% of the local work force.

There are currently 1,084 Latinos among the 6,968 officers in the department. Latinos comprise 15.5% of the force's total sworn membership, blacks account for about 11% and women about 8%.

The specific proposal to increase the number of Latino officers was among a dozen recommendations included in a report released in September by the Police Commission's Hispanic Advisory Council.

The report, prepared after more than a year of study, roundly criticized police administrators for a hiring and promotional system that members of the advisory council found discriminatory, particularly as it involved promotions and the selection of officers to prestigious assignments.

"Above the rank of lieutenant, there is a virtual absence of Hispanic officers, and we found that to be very enlightening when you consider that Latino officers have been a visible presence on the force for at least 15 years," said Theresa Bustillos, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund who co-authored the advisory council's report.

With little public comment, members of the Police Commission took the report "under advisement" at the time, while directing that Commissioner Stephen D. Yslas review its recommendations. Gates, meanwhile, also studied the report. Both men's assessments are scheduled to be considered today by the police commissioners, a five-member civilian board that oversees the Police Department.

Specifically, Gates in his assessment agreed with the Hispanic Advisory Council's recommendation to more closely monitor the recruitment and retention of Latino officers. The chief also agreed with the need to analyze promotional testing procedures for sergeants and detectives to eliminate "any overt discriminatory procedures or policies."

However, Gates declined to support a recommendation by the advisory council that could significantly change the manner in which many officers are promoted through the ranks.

In April, 1983, city voters approved an affirmative-action measure intended to give Gates and other city agency heads the option of promoting workers who do not necessarily finish as top contenders in promotional tests. Under the ballot measure, Gates essentially could promote any officer who places in the top "three whole scores" of a promotional test. That means an officer who receives a rating of 97 on a test theoretically could still be promoted over someone scoring a perfect 100.

However, Gates has insisted that the procedure would be unfair to all officers.

"The current selection procedures used by the department are . . . equitable to all applicants, including Hispanic candidates," Gates said in his written evaluation of the advisory council's report. "Moreover, affirmative-action considerations are fully applied at each step of the promotional process."

But Latino activists, including attorney Bustillos, disagree.

"We analyzed the department's hiring practices for the last 10 years, and more Hispanic officers should be at the higher ranks than are presently represented," Bustillos said Monday. "If the LAPD doesn't do something about this, they are going to have serious problems in the future. There's a disincentive for (Hispanic) officers to stick around at LAPD."

LATINOS IN THE LAPD These figures, current to March 1, show the distribution of Latinos in various ranks.

Rank Latinos Total % Deputy Chief 0 7 0% Commander 0 16 0% Captain 4 66 6.0% Lieutenant 17 220 7.7% Detective 132 1,208 10.9% Sergeant 61 798 7.6% Officer 870 4,652 18.7%

Total officers: 6,968 Total Latino officers: 1,084

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