In a rebuke to Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday called on the city Police Commission to immediately order Gates to allow uniformed gay and lesbian officers to recruit at community festivals.
The 11-0 vote on an emergency motion by Councilman Joel Wachs came a day after Gates said he would bar off-duty LAPD officers--whether or not they were gay--from wearing uniforms this weekend while working as volunteer recruiters at a street fair in the heavily gay Silver Lake district.
The Police Commission has the power to reverse Gates' policy, but it was not scheduled to meet until next week, after Silver Lake's Sunset Junction Festival. The panel's president, Stanley K. Sheinbaum, could not be reached for comment, but he has said Gates' policy will be reviewed.
Late Wednesday, Gates in a prepared statement said he would allow gay and lesbian officers to volunteer as recruiters, but he would not allow them to wear uniforms while off duty. Officers are assigned to the fair, he said, to recruit "qualified police officers, whether or not they are gay and lesbian." While many groups want uniformed Los Angeles police officers to appear at their events, that would expose the city to a variety of liabilities, including officers' demands for overtime pay, he said.
"If (the council members) have that kind of money, let them send me money, not motions," Gates said.
Wachs, a council leader on gay issues, said that the gay officers involved do not want money and that is not the issue. If Gates does not relent, Wachs said, he will request a special meeting of the Police Commission before the weekend to reverse the chief.
He said permitting uniformed gay officers at the festival would be a "tremendous asset" in building goodwill in the community.
In a letter to Gates after the council vote, Wachs appealed to the chief to "accede to the council's wishes."
One of Gates' political allies throughout the Rodney G. King beating controversy, Wachs also said that permitting the gay officers to wear uniforms at the festival would be consistent with the recent recommendations of the Christopher Commission.
The independent panel that investigated the LAPD in the aftermath of the King beating found that the department had been insensitive toward the gay community. It called on the LAPD to fully implement a stated policy of not discriminating against gays and lesbians in recruitment and promotion.
Wachs' motion also called on the Police Commission to quickly adopt and "fully enforce" a new policy that would ensure that gays and lesbians are not discriminated against in future recruitment efforts.
"This is not something that should be decided on an event-by-event basis," Wachs said.
The long-simmering gay community recruiting controversy flared anew in June when Gates' subordinates for the first time allowed gay and lesbian officers to recruit in uniform at the West Hollywood Gay Pride Festival.
Gates stressed his opposition at the time, but allowed the recruitment effort because it had already been approved.