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Sheriff's Sex Bias Policies Questioned

In its first report, an oversight panel finds serious shortcomings in the department.

June 24, 2003|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

A panel examining sexual discrimination in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department found systemic flaws in how the agency has handled complaints and disciplined problem employees.

The Sheriff's Equity Oversight Panel, which was created after a sex harassment lawsuit against the department, issued Monday the first of what are expected to be quarterly reports. The report cited 177 complaints alleging sex harassment and related misconduct in the first quarter.

"The Equity Oversight Panel identified a number of systemic problems pertinent to the policy of equality," the panel said in its 45-page report that covers January to March 2003.

"Many of these problems became evident only after the panel began its work," the panel added.

The lawsuit resulted in a federal consent decree, which was originally signed in 1988.

In a more recent order signed in 1997, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles mandated that the department implement a policy to counter sexual harassment.

The panel was created in September 2002 by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

It includes a retired Sheriff's Department lieutenant and four attorneys with backgrounds in labor law, sexual equality and criminal defense.

The panel reviews investigations, conducts hearings related to those investigations, makes findings of fact and recommends discipline when necessary.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Cathy Taylor said of the complaints that 24 appear to involve violation of rules against discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

Taylor said it was hard to evaluate the numbers only months into the new policy.

"Any time you kick off something of this magnitude, one has to expect it will take a period of time for everything to fall into place," Taylor said."It just takes time."

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