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Area Fire Departments Lag in Racial, Gender Integration, ACLU Says : Hiring: Local police departments fare better in study of whether public safety agencies reflect ethnic mix of their communities.

November 03, 1994|SUSAN STEINBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Santa Monica Police Department is one the most ethnically diverse in the state, but its Fire Department--like most others in the region--largely remains a white male bastion, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

The study, released last week, found that the Los Angeles Police Department has also made advances in integration but that white males dominate the ranks of sworn police officers and firefighting personnel in most Westside cities, following a statewide trend that has left women and minorities underrepresented, especially in the fire services.

The four-month, 88-page report written by Allan Parachini reviewed racial and gender integration of 187 police and fire departments in eight counties in Southern California, including four police departments and five fire departments serving the Westside. It was conducted between June and mid-September, primarily using data from the individual agencies.

The Santa Monica Police Department won praise as one of the most integrated. The study found that, of its sworn, full-time officers, 11% are African American, 19% are Latino and 3% are Asian. The study also noted the relatively high number of minority employees in the department when compared with the ethnic makeup of the community at-large.

"Since Chief (James) Butts has been here, we've been making a real effort to bring our staffing more in line with the community we serve," said police spokesman Sgt. Gary Gallinot. Butts, who took over the 189-person department in 1991, has focused on recruitment of women and minorities in order to broaden the range of potential employees, he said.

"The diversity has really added to our organization--for the officers and the residents of Santa Monica," Gallinot said.

Neither Culver City nor Beverly Hills police supplied the ACLU with personnel figures, but the U.S. Department of Justice was able to provide 1990 data for Beverly Hills so that department could be included in the study, Parachini said. The Justice Department could not provide figures for Culver City, because it had fewer than 100 officers in 1990, he added.

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Of the 7,687 officers in the Los Angeles Police Department, 24.4% are Latino and 14.8% are African American. The study did not break down the large force by the individual divisions or by specific areas of Los Angeles.

Like other area fire departments, Santa Monica's reported little racial and gender integration--the 98-person department has a sole female firefighter and not one African American.

Despite a policy to actively seek out women and other minority applicants, the department's low turnover rate has slowed integration, said Santa Monica Fire Department spokeswoman Roni Roseberg. The most recent hirings were in 1989, she said, noting that four of the five positions available were filled with men from minority groups.

"It appears that women, and often small men, lack the upper-body strength required by the physical agility test and necessary for the job," Roseberg said.

Both the Beverly Hills and Culver City fire departments are all male and predominantly white. Less than 1% of the 2,273 firefighters in the Los Angeles County Fire Department are female, but the department is better integrated racially, with Latinos making up almost 22% of the firefighters.

"Really, we could have made a case for putting every fire department on the worst list," Parachini said. "Beverly Hills and Culver City are both horrible on gender (hiring), and Culver City is nothing to write home about on race, but there are other departments (in Southern California) that are worse." The 30-member San Clemente Fire Department is 100% white male, he noted.

Like all of the police departments surveyed, Westside law enforcement agencies had few sworn female officers in comparison with the female population of the communities.

Less than 5% of the 126-member Beverly Hills police is female, despite women accounting for more than half the city's population, the report noted.

"We recognize the important role women play in law enforcement and are always eager to hire qualified women candidates; in fact, the last three officers hired are females," said Beverly Hills Police spokesman Lt. Frank Salcido.

Both the Los Angeles and Santa Monica police departments fared better than most in the county for gender hiring, with women making up more than 15% of LAPD and 14% of Santa Monica's force.

None of the Westside police and fire departments are included in the report's ignominious list of the most segregated departments in Southern California.

Comparing the racial and gender distribution of sworn personnel in the police and fire departments to the demographics of their communities, the 20 most segregated police departments are Alhambra, Barstow, Beaumont, Brea, Burbank, Compton, Costa Mesa, Covina, Grover City, Huntington Park, Indio, Irwindale, Los Alamitos, Ontario, Ridgecrest, San Gabriel, South Gate and Whittier.

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