Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Monday, October 30, 2006

Diversifying through decree

The Los Angeles Times recently wrote an article about the Los Angeles Police Department's other consent decree, one that was imposed on the agency in 1980 and updated in 1992. This particular decree was directed towards diversifying the police department from bottom to top.

LAPD lags in promoting minorities, women

Some cheered the news. Perhaps some individuals cried in their beers or on Web sites about the agency being overrun by men of color and women.

Others including Sgt. Ronnie Cato, president of the Oscar Joel Bryant Police Foundation, which represents African American officers remained cautious, and said that more work needed to be done to accomplish the goals of the consent decree.

"When we talk about " coveted assignments, if you talk to most African Americans they really don't feel it is equal," Cato told the panel. "Most African Americans on this department will tell you our white counterparts promote two or three times faster than we do."

The head of an organization representing Latino police officers also criticized the lack of progress in moving up Latinos into upper management.

Det. Art Placencia, president of the Latin American Law Enforcement Assn., complained that with the recent departure of George Gascon, there are no Latino assistant police chiefs.

The department also fell short of meeting goals for Latinos promoted to sergeant I, detective III and police officer III.

"We have noted in the command level, Hispanics are under-represented," Placencia told the board.

However, he said the hiring of many Latinos is changing the face of the department. He said Latinos in the department went from 3,011, or 33.6% of the police force in 2001, to 3,459 officers, or 37.2% currently.

"We believe if recruitment continues as is, Hispanics will be the largest group, surpassing the Caucasian group, which has currently 3,900," Placencia said.

In other words, they'll be taking over the department pretty soon, in the minds of some people who still embrace the old ways. However, the influx of Latino officers merely reflects the tremendous growth of the Latino population in Los Angeles, and departments should reflect the communities that they serve. As the population of Los Angeles becomes majority minority, so should that of its law enforcement agency.

(Excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

LAPD breakdown

The Los Angeles Police Department's ethnic and gender breakdown out of 9,302 sworn personnel as of June 24, 2006:

No. of % of
Category officers personnel

Caucasian 3,900 41.9
Latino 3,459 37.2
Black 1,170 12.6
Asian 565 6.1
Filipino 166 1.8
American Indian 42 0.5
Men 7,570 81.4
Women 1,732 18.6

PBS Frontline interviewed Gerald Chaleff, a defense attorney who once served as counsel to the Warren Christopher Commission, which investigated the police department after the Rodney King beating incident and its aftermath in 1992 and as president of the Los Angeles Police Commission. The following is what he had to say about the 1980 consent decree on hiring imposed on the LAPD.

PBS frontline: LAPD


"I think it's been helpful for the department. We've had goals that have been set to meet to increase the number of minority officers, and increase the number of women, and some of that is being achieved. . . ."

"You want to have a department that looks like the community it's policing so you can build up trust, and I think that's helpful. There are a number of people who want to complain, who say that that's why you have problems with your police department. But anybody who complains about it is missing the boat, because we're not getting less qualified officers, we're just getting different kinds of officers."

When asked if he believed that there was value in these hiring goals, Chaleff said the following.

"I believe there is inherent good in hiring goals. I believe there is inherent good in having a police department that looks like its community. I can't imagine a police department that doesn't have diversity. If not, it will always look like an occupying army. ."

Unfortunately, there are still those who equate "different" with "inferior" or "less qualified" as was evidenced by comments made by several individuals at the Oct. 10 city council meeting in Riverside. It just goes to show that Los Angeles and its police department are not alone in grappling with a police department that needs to better reflect the population that it serves.

The Riverside Police Department has struggled with the same issues that have plagued the LAPD in terms of diversifying its work force in the 1980s. According to its latest Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report, less than 10% of the RPD's sworn officers were female and of those, less than 25% were women of color. That number has not consistently improved in the past five years and in the past year, has decreased further.

Latino officers comprised 19% of the department's sworn ranks, a percentage which is less than half of Latinos' representation in the city's population. Black officers comprise just under 7% of the department's sworn officers, a level that is slightly less than their representation in the city's general population. Asian-American and American Indian officers are also underrepresented.

One tool that has been used to diversify police departments is the federal consent decree process. A consent decree is a legally binding agreement between an agency in the federal government, i.e. the Department of Justice and a local city to implement a reform process involving one or more of its agencies. The more popularly known consent decrees involve the end results of the federal government suing local law enforcement agencies, utilizing legislation that was passed by Congress in the mid-1990s. These law suits placed pressure on the cities presiding over these agencies to enter into agreements to reform them. Cities that have had these types of consent decrees imposed on them include Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Tulsa.

Other types of consent decrees involve the creation of a more diverse workforce. The LAPD was on the receiving end of one of those types of decrees in 1980 involving the hiring of women in the wake of the Blake v the City of Los Angeles (1979) class action law suit and again in 1992 to address improving the promotional process for men of color and female officers.

Do these decrees work?

Penny Harrington and other women involved with the National Center of Women and Policing did a research study in 2003, examining the impact, both immediate and more importantly longer term, these decrees had on various city, county and state law enforcement agencies.

The Effect of Consent Decrees on the Representation of Women in Law Enforcement(pdf)

After exhaustive research, the study determined that while consent decrees had a relatively quick impact on improving the hiring and retention of female officers in all of the agencies in the study, the longer-term effects were not nearly as promising.

Fairly quickly, most law enforcement agencies improved their numbers of female officers after a consent decree was imposed. In 2001, the percentages of female officers in law enforcement agencies was much higher than that for agencies without consent decrees as well as the national average for that class of law enforcement agency.

The increases were most strongly felt at city agencies, where the average percentage of female officers was 77% higher than agencies without consent decrees and 25% higher than the national average for city law enforcement agencies. The figures of improvement for state and county law enforcement agencies were remarkable as well.

The problem was, these agencies were not able to sustain that growth of improvement. While many of the agencies still had hiring gains for female officers, that growth had slowed down considerably after the dissolution of the agreement. Still, the National Center of Women and Policing concluded that consent decrees were an excellent and necessary tool for increasing diversity in the work force until the agencies could implement their own policies to more successfully recruit, hire and retain female police officers.

Consent decrees are only as good as the commitment that goes to continuing the reform process after their expiration. The city of Riverside took a tumble after it dissolved its stipulated judgment with State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office earlier this year. After initially promising to continue reforming the police department, the city council and city manager promptly forgot about it for nearly six months until they were reminded by city residents that there was still a job to do.

Consent decrees involving hiring practices deserve the same level of commitment during and following their implementation, but does that happen? Here are some statistics provided in the study.


During Consent Decree:

Hiring increases per year: 0.47%

Percentage of agencies which made serious progress: 87%

Post Consent Decree:

Hiring increases per year: 0.22%

Percentage of agencies which stalled or reversed progress: 71%

The Cincinnati Police Department was placed under a similar consent decree (not to be confused with its current patterns and practices decree) in 1981 to prevent it from discriminating against male African-American officers and female officers in its department. For women, it sought to have them represent 23% of the police force at a time, when the percentage was stuck at 5%.

In 2002, Cincinnati's police department still had not reached that point so the decree remains in effect over 20 years later. However, with 20.9% of its department female in 2002, it has come close and boasts one of the highest percentages of female police officers in the country.

For Black officers in that city, there are still many complaints, but not just against the police department, according to a blog called black cincinnati which stated here that Black officers with this department were being "sold out" by the Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge #69 including those who complained about racism in the police department.

The authors of the study from the National Center for Women and Policing cautioned that the issue of enforcement of the consent decrees remains very important. These decrees need to be closely monitored by the courts with implementation of "meaningful sanctions" if the departments are noncompliant.

It is also imperative according to this study that there is strong leadership inside the law enforcement agency that supports the efforts of the consent decrees, especially after they have expired. Often, the success or failure of the consent decrees rests on those who sit at the top of a law enforcement agency and their own attitudes towards women both serving as police officers and as police officers in their law enforcement agencies.

It is not clear whether that commitment exists in the Riverside Police Department especially when any questions regarding the implementation of Strategic Plan's Objective #1.5 which is to "create a work force that better reflects the city of Riverside" simply lead to the response that this important goal that is included in a court-mandated document is a "general idea" and not a "quota" from the department's police chief. Yet, what plans are in place to implement objective #1.5?

Better not ask the police department.

Last month, a written request was submitted to Chief Russ Leach requesting both statistical information on the racial and gender breakdown of officers entering and leaving the police department within the past nine months, as well as documents detailing the goals and objectives from the department's Personnel and Training Division on how these goals and objectives including those listed in the department's Strategic Plan would be implemented. The department's response to this request from Deputy Chief John DeLaRosa was that there had been an extensive search conducted but that these documents did not exist.

So, no there does not appear to be any sign of strong commitment from the police department to implement objective #1.5 and see it come to fruition in the next several years. If there were, it would be clearly outlined in writing, wouldn't it?

Los Angeles Police Department 2001 Consent Decree(pdf)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the dreaded white males are in the minority, I wonder if they will receive "protected class" status and be afforded all of the Affirmative Action privileges and priorities that ethnic minorities have been receiving for years? Somehow I don't think turnabout will be fair play.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 8:50:00 PM  
Blogger Sandalou said...

When they've served an equal amount of time under the whip, we'll think about it. That means you only have several centuries to wait.

Friday, November 03, 2006 1:39:00 AM  

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