The Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday abolished a requirement that officers stand at least 5 feet tall to join the LAPD.
Department officials requested that the minimum height requirement be eliminated, saying they have found no evidence that shorter people were less capable of performing the duties of a police officer.
Furthermore, they said such a requirement exposed the department to potential lawsuits from candidates who were rejected solely because of their height.
A couple of commissioners asked Los Angeles Police Chief Willie L. Williams if shorter officers had a greater tendency to rely on their weapons than taller officers, and the chief assured them there was no evidence to support such a theory.
"There is no research within the department or nationally that shows that small stature individuals . . . [have] any negative impact on their ability to perform their jobs" because of their height, Williams said.
Department officials surveyed 16 police departments across the country, and none had minimum height requirements. Police officials and commissioners said the move is likely to attract more women and Asians to the department.
The commissioners voted 4-0 to eliminate the requirement.
In other Police Commission action Tuesday, Williams disputed an article in The Times reporting that the Internal Affairs Division probe into former Det. Mark Fuhrman added to a backlog of cases and prompted the LAPD to ask for 38 more investigators.
"This work did not set back, to the degree evidently alleged in the news this morning, the overall responsibilities and duties of Internal Affairs," Williams told the commission, although he admitted he had not read the article.
The Fuhrman investigation was spurred by tape-recorded statements the detective made to an aspiring screenwriter, which surfaced during the O.J. Simpson murder trial. During those conversations, Fuhrman said suspects routinely were beaten and sometimes tortured--assertions investigators said cannot be substantiated.
"Had the department not provided the resources to conduct an appropriate investigation and try to cover all the bases, the newspaper headline this morning might have said something else," Williams said.