A federal judge has forbidden the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department from promoting any deputies to the rank of sergeant until it institutes more equitable promotion procedures.
In issuing a formal written judgment in a case filed eight years ago by Sgt. Susan Bouman Perez, U.S. District Judge Robert M. Takasugi also directed the department to "prepare a written policy of equal employment opportunity in promotion" and to communicate it to all sworn personnel within 90 days.
Perez, who is the community relations sergeant at the sheriff's Pico Rivera station, filed a class-action civil rights suit accusing the department of discriminating against her and other women deputies.
Contacted Monday, she said she felt "mostly just relief" that the case was behind her. She was pleased with Takasugi's decision, she said, "because the department tends to do what they want to do, regardless of what the laws are. I can see this is going to help people in the future."
The department did not have a comment on the judgment, public information officer Deputy Sam Jomes said Monday. "It is under review."
In her suit, Perez contended that men held the competitive edge for promotion to sergeant. Of 6,590 sworn personnel in the department, 754 are women. Of those, only 73 hold the rank of sergeant or above, with none higher than captain. Of 874 sergeants, 57 are women.
Takasugi's judgment, entered last week, formalizes a written order that he issued in February, 1987, after a four-year, non-jury trial. Takasugi agreed then that women had been denied equal opportunity for promotion to sergeant but did not indicate what he would order the department to do about its promotion procedures.
The judge enjoined sheriff's officers from using a selection procedure "that excludes females disproportionately." He ordered that the department not "prepare, administer, design, draft or use promotional examinations" for any promotions to the rank of sergeant until a court-approved procedure is devised that "complies fully" with federal equal employment opportunity or civil rights laws.
Takasugi ordered the department to report to the court monthly on the number of women in the department, the number of men and women at the rank of sergeant and the number of promotions to sergeant, with sex identification of each person. He also ordered that Perez be paid punitive damages of $106,523.60.
Perez joined the Sheriff's Department in 1971, at the end of an era when women deputies spent their careers as jail matrons and were not allowed on patrol. However, she became part of a pilot program in 1975 that put women deputies on patrol. After she earned outstanding ratings, according to court documents, she took the three-part examination for sergeant. However, she ranked low, 120th out of 250, but found that after everyone ahead of her had been promoted, that department officials had frozen the list and told her there were no "vacancies" for sergeant.
She unsuccessfully appealed through department channels and to the county Civil Service Commission before filing her suit in 1980. She was promoted to sergeant in 1981 but pursued the case, attorney Dennis M. Harley said, because "she still continued to represent all females in the department who had not been or would not be promoted to the rank of sergeant."
In contrast, the same year Perez filed her case, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer named Fanchon Blake won a suit against the LAPD for unlawful job discrimination. That case, which Blake filed in 1973, resulted in consent decrees requiring the immediate hiring of more women and minorities and provision for accelerating promotion to the rank of lieutenant. The LAPD now has 684 women, out of 7,247 officers, with 13 women sergeants out of a total of 796. There are 213 lieutenants, and six are women.