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Council Panel to Study Plan for Adding 50 Officers


An effort to quickly put 50 more police officers on the streets hit a snag Wednesday but appeared likely to win approval from the Los Angeles City Council.

The council asked its Police Committee to study the proposal to allow the Police Department to rehire officers who voluntarily left and want to return, reserves who want to work full time and officers who were laid off by other departments.

The action came after some council members expressed concern about the proposal's effect on diversification of the Police Department. They expressed concern that a majority of officers hired under the proposal would be white men.

"Just as our constituents want us to put more officers on the street, we are under a court mandate to increase diversity in the department," Councilwoman Rita Walters said.

A majority of council members, however, expressed support for the proposal, which Deputy Police Chief Larry Fetters said was unlikely to affect the department's affirmative action goals.

"It's not a problem," said Fetters, commanding officer of the department's human resources bureau.

Ray Allen, general manager of the personnel department, said that if the proposed policy results in a sudden influx of white men, the department would step up its hiring of minorities and women among Police Academy recruits.

Police officials also have suggested that rehiring former officers might lead to the return of many former women officers who left the department to raise children.

Councilwoman Laura Chick offered the plan to quickly and inexpensively put 50 more officers on the street. The budget includes funding for 7,900 officers, but only about 7,500 are on the force. Police Chief Willie L. Williams is preparing a plan requested by Mayor Richard Riordan to hire 3,000 more officers.

Police officials supported the delay to study the proposal, saying they need time to study streamlining Civil Service rules for hiring former LAPD officers and officers from other police agencies. Under current rules, already trained officers must go through the same Civil Service process as applicants without police experience.

"We clearly want to do this," Fetters said. "We just need to work out the details."

Councilman Joel Wachs supported the delay but chided his colleagues to "not allow a million bureaucrats to figure out all the reasons why they can't do something simple."

Councilman Richard Alarcon took issue with Wachs' comments, saying, "I don't want to buffalo the public on this issue. Every one of us wants to hire more police officers, but let's do it right."

The proposal is likely to be back before the council late next week, where it appears to have enough votes to pass. At least eight council members appear to favor it.

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