Adding to a widening chorus of criticism of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Pasadena City Council on Tuesday took up a proposal to overturn a longstanding agreement under which the agency helps provide security services for the Rose Parade on New Year's Day.
Noting that Pasadena's Affirmative Action Ordinance requires that contractors doing business with the city must offer equal opportunity, council members expressed concern about a series of federal court rulings that the Sheriff's Department had deliberately discriminated against female deputies.
Most recently, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court finding that the Sheriff's Department had unfair promotion policies. On Tuesday, the county asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate ruling.
"We're not talking about somebody calling a press conference and making allegations," Councilman William Paparian said. "These are the findings of a United States district court, upheld by a federal court of appeals."
The council directed city staff to consider alternatives to the Sheriff's Department to augment parade security.
The Sheriff's Department is also under investigation by the County Grand Jury, the FBI, Amnesty International and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission for a spate of controversial shootings last summer.
The department is also involved in a pair of sensational court cases, which have included charges that deputies skimmed drug money, engaged in a pattern of excessive force and participated in a white supremacist gang.
Since the early 1960s, the department has assigned deputies to help Pasadena police patrol the parade route on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, as well as to provide security during the Rose Bowl game.
Assistant Sheriff Richard Foreman defended his department's performance with regard to women. He said that since the discrimination suit was filed in 1977, the Sheriff's Department has increasingly hired and promoted women.
Current figures show that 1,021 of 8,067 deputies are women, as well as 82 of 901 sergeants, 20 of 314 lieutenants, 5 of 57 captains and 2 of 25 commanders.
But attorney Dennis Harley, who represents the female deputies, said no women have been promoted to sergeant since 1988 because of a federal injunction against any promotions.
He said the Los Angeles Police Department has hired and promoted "far more women" than the Sheriff's Department.
If the council does not approve an allocation of $375,000, providing half the cost for the employment of 735 deputies during the holiday, the Pasadena Police Department may find itself stretched too thin to provide adequate security for the events, police officials said.
The Tournament of Roses, which runs the parade, provides the other half of the $750,000 contract with the Sheriff's Department.
"We can't do without the bodies," said Police Lt. Robert Huff, who supervises traffic and support operations. "We may have to look for bodies elsewhere."
The council on Tuesday directed City Manager Philip Hawkey and Police Chief Jerry Oliver to consider alternatives to using sheriff's deputies.
Paparian and Councilman Isaac Richard questioned the appropriateness of doing business with an agency which had demonstrated a pattern of discrimination.
Ramon Curiel, the city's affirmative action director, said there is no legal requirement for the city to reject the Sheriff's Department as a contractor.
"There's an automatic exemption (from the Affirmative Action Ordinance) because it's a governmental agency," he said.
But Paparian said the council is obligated to use its authority to weed out governmental contractors "where there's an especially egregious situation."
Richard also raised questions about sheriff's deputies' past performance at the parade. He said that police patrolling the route, particularly sheriff's deputies, had been "very restrictive and authoritarian."
Richard conceded that deputies were effective in policing recent demonstrations in West Hollywood after Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a gay rights bill.