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Report Urges Ways to Curb Race and Sex Bias by Police

December 20, 1987|TRACY WILKINSON | Times Staff Writer

A consultant hired by the City of Santa Monica to look into allegations of racism in the Police Department is recommending a review of how officers are promoted, more "sensitivity" training and the creation of an ombudsman position to handle charges of bias.

The consultant's findings are contained in a 10-page report released last week to City Council members and the press. It comes amid a mounting campaign by a group of minority officers denouncing racism in police departments.

The long-awaited report concluded that there are "existing and potential" problems on the Santa Monica police force related to racism and prejudice, the use of ethnic slurs, a lack of trust in women officers by their male colleagues and a sometimes-subjective formula for promoting officers.

'Apparent Silence'

The report said "racial insensitivity" does not permeate the police system but is the "behavior of a small but vocal group of officers." Many officers seem willing to try to correct the problems, the report found.

However, the report denounces an "apparent silence" by most officers that lends "implied support" for racist attitudes.

It suggests that those who complain about racist or sexist comments are often considered "sniveling malcontents" by others on the force.

The report was written by Nat Trives, director of the Santa Monica-based TLT & Associates consulting firm, and submitted to the city last week. Trives, former Santa Monica mayor and police sergeant, based his findings on a three-month study involving questionnaires and "cultural awareness" seminars for all officers.

In a response to the report, City Manager John Jalili said the entire examination process used to promote officers, including how written tests are administered, is being reviewed to look at ways to make it more objective.

Jalili told council members that the Police Department will "focus particular attention in the coming months on additional training to address the problems, perceptual or otherwise, of racism as discussed in the consultant's study."

Changes in Training Urged

He also recommended changes, which he would not specify, in the field training program for officers. Some critics have charged that blacks and women have been unfairly graded low in the field training part of recruits' probationary period.

Trives, who is black, was hired when the city became concerned about a high attrition rate among blacks and women on the police force. Since he began his work, however, a group of black officers has stepped up its criticism of the department and its hiring and promotion practices.

The group, which is small but claims members from several police departments, focused its attack on Police Chief James Keane, charging that he tolerates racism in the department, discriminates against minorities and women and punishes those who complain.

Keane has denied those charges and pointed to the city's aggressive affirmative action hiring policies.

Trives' report is not likely to quiet the critics.

Sgt. Henry McCray, a black officer on "stress leave" from the Santa Monica force and a member of the group that has been critical of the department, said Trives' recommendations appear to fall short of true reform.

Impartiality Questioned

"We have listed those same recommendations (in the past) . . . and to no avail," McCray said upon hearing a synopsis of the report. "From the start, I expected this would be a report in favor of the city."

McCray, who is also vice president of the Santa Monica chapter of the NAACP, questioned Trives' impartiality because of his ties to the city.

The local NAACP has called for a federal investigation into the charges.

Among Trives' other recommendations:

Keane should establish "long-term affirmative action goals," publicize them in the department and call on all officers to help recruit minorities and women.

In-house training sessions that will assist in promotions.

An internal task force to hold seminars on race and gender sensitivity.

Discontinuation "from top down" of the "use of sarcasm," and "communication and interpersonal relations training" for all supervisors.

"The department has to change its 'culture' which permits only the vocal few to gain attention and suggests that those who complain about racist or sexist comments are 'whining, sniveling malcontents.' "

Goals for easing divisive issues, with a timetable and "monitoring plan" should be set up, with follow-up sessions for all personnel.

Good Response Rate

Trives conducted his study by first mailing out surveys to all 152 sworn officers. Of those, 80 were completed and sent back, a return rate that Trives termed "excellent."

Follow-up interviews were given to 40 officers. And then six hours of "cultural awareness" training was held for all officers.

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