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Police Personnel Intact Despite Critical Report

March 01, 1990|IRENE CHANG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRWINDALE — It's been almost four years since a city-funded report found deeply rooted racial tension and other problems in the Police Department and recommended sweeping changes, including replacing the chief.

Since the report, clashes between Latino and Anglo officers and death threats no longer occur and intimidation has subsided, by most officers' accounts. Antiquated equipment has been replaced and many deficiencies have been corrected with the addition of a new radio tower and canine unit, plus a multimillion-dollar, 10,000-square-foot expansion of the police station.

But none of the personnel changes recommended in the report have been implemented. Julian Miranda is still chief. Then-Lt. Charles Crawford, recommended for demotion, was promoted to commander in September, 1988, with a pay raise. And two sergeants who the report said should be transferred are still in the same posts.

City officials point to improved relations between Latino and Anglo officers and say the new department heads the report recommended aren't needed. But some officers dissatisfied with their superiors say the political and familial ties among a few Irwindale families make it unlikely that any major changes will happen.

"Let's face it, the chief will never be removed simply because it's a Miranda clan," said one officer, who asked that his name not be used. Miranda, brother of City Councilman Patricio Miranda, has been chief since 1978.

Another officer said: "My attitude has been, things are the way they are and I got to live with them. I'm just stuck."

These officers' complaints come in the midst of a nine-month contract dispute between Irwindale's 31-member police force and the City Council, the longest impasse ever, according to City Manager Charles Martin. The police association is demanding, among other things, a $350-a-month pay raise and formal evaluations of all city employees.

Officers say it's unfair that while most San Gabriel Valley cities evaluate all employees on a regular basis, only police officers in Irwindale must come up for review.

Assistant City Manager Fred Herrera, who until recently was negotiating with the police association, said "we've never felt the need" for formal evaluations of Irwindale's 24 non-police employees. "No other employees carry a gun."

"You might say we evaluate (non-police employees) more or less on an informal basis," he added. "Martin and the chief ask for a vote of confidence from the City Council. If a guy isn't doing a good job, the supervisor will go and tell them."

The 1986 report by Xavier Hermosillo, then the city's public relations consultant, was ordered in the wake of an article in The Times that described a department so fractured by ethnic feuding and fear that some officers were wiring themselves for sound and secretly recording everyday conversations.

Officers, split into a largely Anglo "A Team" and a largely Latino "B Team," reported incidents where officers from opposite teams refused to respond to each other's calls for assistance.

The Hermosillo report blamed widespread administrative neglect and political interference from the City Council for low police morale, and recommended that Miranda be replaced, Crawford be demoted at least to the rank of sergeant, and Sgts. Frank Gomez and Raul Breceda be transferred to newly created positions.

But City Manager Martin rejected the report. He hired another consultant who came out with what critics called a "watered-down" version of the Hermosillo report, which didn't call for Miranda's removal.

"Our refusal to replace the chief has had nothing to do with family ties," Martin said recently. "Julian's done an adequate to superior job.

"The whole city is divided into family fights. When one family's in, another family wants to get in."

Officers concede that things have quieted down, but say favoritism and ethnic insensitivity still exist. They say Crawford continues to align himself with the Anglo faction and uses double standards when disciplining officers. They also claim he still uses work time to operate his auto parts salvage business from the police station, a practice that four years ago was blamed for low employee morale.

One Anglo officer alleged incidents in which Crawford agreed to change evaluations that Anglo officers disagreed with, but refused similar requests by Latino officers.

"He would tell (the Latinos), 'It's the sergeant's opinion. This stands,' " said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Crawford refused to comment on the allegations.

In another case, the police association said Miranda promoted a friend to sergeant over its objections. "I'm close friends with a lot of people around here," Miranda said in response. "A lot of people who work for me, a lot of us are family."

Martin dismissed the complaints as those of "some disgruntled employees. We are a completely integrated department. I think it works very well."

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