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'Awareness' Sessions on Prejudice Set for Santa Monica Police

October 11, 1987|TRACY WILKINSON | Times Staff Writer

In an effort to detect and eradicate racist and sexist attitudes, the Santa Monica Police Department this week will begin special "cultural awareness" training for all its officers.

Nat Trives, a consultant who devised the program, says that while bias is not a major problem on the 150-member force, some complaints have been registered.

"Santa Monica is thoughtful and progressive enough to reach out and solve the problem before it becomes major," Trives, a partner in the TLT & Associates consulting firm, said in an interview.

A former Santa Monica police officer and former Santa Monica mayor, Trives was hired by the city earlier this year to survey attitudes about minorities and women in the Police Department. The study was prompted by concerns among city officials over a high attrition rate among minority and women officers, Trives said.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 15, 1987 Home Edition Westside Part 10 Page 2 Column 3 Zones Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
In an Oct. 11 article, Santa Monica Police Chief James Keane referred to the recent dismissal of a male sergeant who was involved in a sexual harassment case. Keane went on to say the sergeant was later allowed to retire. After an appeal, the dismissal was withdrawn as part of the arrangement, the sergeant's lawyer later told The Times.

He said there have been some indications of racism or sexism reported in the Santa Monica police force, such as derogatory cartoons on the department bulletin board, ethnic jokes in the locker room or the occasional use of a racial slur.

"The workplace in 1987 is no place for that type of activity," Trives said. The training program "is the city's effort to do a better job, to improve service to the public."

Trives, who in 1975 became Santa Monica's only black mayor, also said some minority officers have alleged they are not given an equal opportunity to move upward within department ranks.

Santa Monica Police Chief James Keane, while saying he had a positive attitude toward the upcoming training, defended the department's record regarding minorities. He said promotions are based primarily on objective standards.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, I'd say we are a 1," Keane said when asked to characterize the problem of racism or sexism in the department. "We are just trying to cut things off at the bud."

Affirmative Action Policy

Both Trives and Keane pointed to Santa Monica's affirmative action hiring policy, which Trives praised as one of the best in the city.

However, once hired, Trives said, some of the women, blacks and Latinos do not feel they are being promoted quickly enough or given choice assignments as often as their white male counterparts.

The department "does a good job bringing in people. What then are the expectations? High. But the results are not what they (minority officers) think they should be. We are looking at that," Trives said.

He added that Santa Monica's force "would not be considered a racist police department" and praised the city for voluntarily choosing to examine the issue.

City Manager John Jalili, who originally contacted Trives for the study, said he believed any instances of ethnic slurs by officers were inadvertent, adding that "the training is important just to make sure people are more aware about what they are saying and how they say it."

Six Hours of Training

In sessions that begin Monday morning, sworn members of the force in groups of about 25 will begin receiving six hours of training, Trives said. Management is to attend a two-day retreat at the end of the course.

Trives previously distributed to all officers questionnaires about attitudes on race and women. About 80 officers--just over half of those queried--responded, Trives said. He then conducted random interviews with about 30 officers.

When the sessions are completed sometime next month, Santa Monica's officers will have received more "cross-cultural training" than any other police officers in the state, Trives asserted.

He said sessions would include discussions and the acting out of vignettes by officers.

"This is not sensitivity training like in the '60s. It is not confrontational. It is real-world-oriented training. Certain feelings exist in the real world, 1987, we know that. But you put on the blue, the badge, and those feelings must be sublimated . . . to do the job," Trives said.

No Spankings

"We are not there to spank anybody (or) to beat anybody up . . . but to give them tools for dealing with these concerns, to keep down any tensions," he said.

Keane said he recalled only one formal complaint related to racism in the last two years, when a black officer protested the use of the word nigger by a white officer during the interrogation of a suspect. The white officer was reprimanded, Keane said.

He said there has been a "flurry" of sexual harassment cases, including one earlier this year that led to dismissal of the male sergeant involved.

In a 1986 case, a black officer, Glen Whitney, flunked his field training and was dismissed, Keane said. Some black officers felt Whitney had been fired because he was black, Keane said.

He said that the 150-member police force has 18 Latinos, 11 blacks, 2 Indians and 1 Asian. Sixteen officers are women.

"With 150 officers, there are going to be a few wise guys, people with a different sense of humor," Keane said. "But we have to be sensitive. We are all from different cultures. . . . It's positive to sit down and talk about it."

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