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VOICES

ISSUE: Police Officers

August 08, 1993| Compiled by Jake Doherty Times community correspondent

Mayor Richard Riordan wants to recruit another 3,000 police officers to beef up the Police Department, which currently numbers about 7,600. What do you think are the most important qualifications or characteristics that a police officer for the city of Los Angeles should have?

* Anthony Thigpenn

South-Central; board chairman of Action for Grassroots Empowerment and Neighborhood

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"The sole emphasis on adding 3,000 more police officers to the LAPD, without achieving fundamental reform in the LAPD's philosophy, culture, and accountability to the community, is misguided. Without such reforms, more officers simply increase the problems of racism, excessive violence and abuse of power which led to the Rodney King incident. Along with significant structural reform, any new police officers should understand and respect the communities in which they operate, have a willingness to be accountable to the residents of the communities in which they operate, and most importantly, have an understanding that a strictly written law enforcement approach cannot solve the problems of crime and safety. It requires a community-driven approach where residents in the community are problem-solvers, the police are only part of the solution, and police practices and behavior are determined by this community-driven approach."

* Rosalie Gurrola

Boyle Heights; United Neighborhoods Organization leader

"Good judgment is No. 1: Police need to know how to treat us with respect and take care of business at the same time. Understand why our communities both fear the police and want the police. Be willing to listen and acknowledge we have something to say. We want police to be as courteous to people in Boyle Heights as they are to those in Brentwood. Work with us as equal partners and believe that together we have a better chance of solving problems related to crime."

* Terry du Soleil

Alvarado Terrace homeowner and community activist

"A good police officer is one who has a lot of experience working with people on a very humanitarian level and is not prone to use force as a first choice. Nonviolence training is a very key issue that has never been addressed, as far as I know, in the LAPD like it has in other cities. We also need officers who are interested in relating to people of many different nationalities and cultures and who have an understanding of the differences between cultures. However, while more police would be nice, that's not the real problem. They are not using the ones we have appropriately. Many officers are doing desk jobs that civilians could do. And they could be following the lead of the city parking patrol, which generates tremendous amounts of money for the city. That model could be one way to deal with the drug problem. Dealers could be ticketed for street sales and fined. After three or four tickets they could be sent to jail. We should look into other alternatives before we spend a lot of money to hire more police, money that everyone says we don't have."

* Teresa P. Vallente

Project coordinator, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans

"Before Riordan thinks of recruiting new officers, we need to take a look at what the system already has. I know Chief Williams is doing all he can to re-energize the LAPD, but there needs to be some housecleaning. New officers will be trained by people already on the force, and that training contributed to the King beating. . . . They need to consider not only people who are educated, but also people who have a commitment to the neighborhoods, who will get out of their cars and familiarize themselves with the concerns of neighbors and business people. The ideal officer would be someone who is open, culturally sensitive and has experience dealing with diverse groups. Racial tensions are extremely high now and new officers have to understand the history of those tensions. New officers should also be diverse in terms of gender, sexual orientation and interests. They should be aware of the needs communities are facing. Of course they must deal with issues of public safety and violence but there are other underlying problems too. Officers need to know how to use the community's resources and social services. The LAPD is only one entity and needs to be able to coexist and work with other entities and agencies in the city.

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