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.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Recruitment wars and wares

The LAPD is offering financial incentive for recruitment assistance from anyone who can help it find and hire new officers to work for its agency.

The department’s decision to offer money, was at least partly in response to the news that when it came to recruiting new police officers, not only had it fallen short of its own goals but it was also losing ground to the aggressive recruiting tactics of its neighbor, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Sheriff tops LAPD in new hires

LASD sheriff, Lee Baca managed somehow to turn around the usual hiring problems in his own agency by offering better salaries to start working for him than recruits would receive if they joined the LAPD. This action was done to offset what the agency called the downside of working for the LASD. Mainly, in that new deputies begin their tenure by working inside Los Angeles County's over-crowded and over-stressed jail system for about two years. Working the jails had been apparently been a deterrent to many recruits coming to work in the Sheriff's Department, Baca stated. A hefty pay raise provided by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors softened that blow although it hasn't addressed the problems in the jails.

Now it's the LAPD's turn to play catch up. On its list of strategies is meeing with the LASD to find out what has made its recruitment drive a success. Good luck there.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times article)

Sheriff's Recruitment Unit Lt. Joe Fernnell said his job these days is more like that of a college football scout, with his recruiters scouring job fairs across the country for viable candidates, going into schools and colleges and exploiting family ties to the department while pitching the department's family atmosphere and starting pay of $53,000 to $59,000.

"I'm not about to tell you my secrets, because then our competitors would be using them next week," he said.

Police Chief William Bratton and his department blame the shortage in officers on the lack of trust that people of color have towards the LAPD and law enforcement in general. So Bratton has been speaking out on that issue, hoping to change some minds and perceptions. In other words, he is hoping that the members of his audience have short memories and have forgotten about Eulia Mae Love, Rodney King, Stanley Miller, Margaret Mitchell and others. Not to mention the Rampart scandal, the Pena shooting and the videotapes, three. Those memories do more than just linger.

Still, Bratton has taken his mission to the golden streets of L.A. And that includes giving speeches on radio stations.

"We're hiring," Bratton said on KPWR-FM (105.9), whose tag line is "Where Hip-Hop Lives."

"Particularly in the minority communities in this city that have had tensions between the LAPD and minorities historically, if you want to make a difference, be the difference," he told listeners. "So come and work it from the inside out."

The question Bratton doesn't answer is whether those officers will have more power to make a "difference" when they hop on board or less. When it comes to resisting change, the law enforcement culture is often cruelest to its own.

Bratton then moved onto an appearance on Rick Dees’ radio show.

"We want women. We want Latinos. We want African Americans, and right now we are struggling, to be quite frank with you," Bratton told Rick Dees on Thursday on KMVN-FM (93.9).

Bratton, fix your agency, don't fight the federal government's reform process and maybe then, they will come. Maybe.

LAPD recruitment Web site

Here is one recruitment call by a former LAPD officer who worked in its 77th division. I once met a Black officer who worked this assignment whose story about trying to report racism within that division and the retaliation he said that he faced would curl anyone's teeth. Like I said, Bratton, do the work in your agency and maybe then they will come.

The LASD has had its own struggles recruiting new deputies to create a workforce of 10,000 sworn employees as is detailed here.


Despite their proximity and the common public service calling of their law enforcement mission, Fennell says that Sheriff Baca's Los Angeles County agency doesn't see itself competing for talent specifically against the Los Angeles Police Department.

However, he says, "We're competing with everyone in law enforcement, and we're all drawing from the same applicant pool," along with other government agencies and the private sector, says Fennell.

Some of the LASD recruitment tactics include using billboard space in California and Nevada along with regular advertising to attract applicants and working in partnership with local professional sports franchises including the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Still, more than one quarter of the applicants received by the recruiting division of the LASD come from its referral program. That is a quality it shares with many other law enforcement agencies.

Further east, the Riverside Police Department is still struggling to recruit men of color and women of all races to work in its agency. Between January and and September 2006, the department had experienced no net growth for either male Latino officers or female officers, according to two separate EEOC reports drawn during those time periods.

The RPD has traditionally struggled with hiring men of color and women to fill its ranks and more importantly, keeping them. Even a generous labor contract recently approved by the city, may do little to buck this trend unless the department's personnel and training division takes this task and its challenges seriously. With Capt. Mike Blakely at its helm, that remains to be seen whether that will happen.

After all, with former captain, Lee Wagner and former lieutenants Ron Orrantia and Alex Tortes as historical references, it's difficult to remain optimistic about this staffing reassignment that took place fairly soon after the dissolution of the stipulated judgement between the city and State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office in March. Capt. Pete Esquival who had held the position less than a year had many plans to implement in this division, but not enough time to do so.

Hopefully, at the department's next quarterly report before the city council, Blakely's plans to improve the recruitment, hiring and retention of the men and women who will staff the department will be given a prominant role in the presentation and he will be able to tell the elected city officials and the public exactly what those plans are in great detail.

Small inroads have been made in terms of hiring men of color in the past two years. Even before the fatal shooting of Tyisha Miller by four officers in 1998, the department hired few Black officers, according to EEOC reports released biennially during the 1990s. Miller's shooting and its aftermath served as a deterrent to people of color particularly Black men in terms of working in this police department. When allegations of racism within the department were reported by former officer, Rene Rodriguez on 60 Minutes in 1999, these issues that the department was struggling with in the wake of a controversial shooting had been aired in front of a national audience. The hiring trends after that mirrored the reality of that public disclosure of problems within the agency.

In the past several years, the department has made small gains in hiring Black male officers and it has tripled its number of Black female officers. The number of Asian-American officers increased as well, in a city where Asian-Americans are one of the fastest growing racial groups. These increases were in part because efforts were made in recruitment and also because the actual numbers of these officers is very small. The percentage of Latino officers is less than half of the Latino representation in the city's population and the retention rate for female Latino officers is among the poorest of any group of officers in the department.

In the autumn of 2005, the city council approved a package of recruitment incentives including $5,000 signing bonuses both to the recruit hired and the person who recommended him to the agency. The department also created 25 new entry level positions and filled them fairly quickly. A hiring fair held last July at Bordwell Park brought 150 men and women in to take their written exams. About 20% of those applicants were women and about 1/3 of them were Latino men or women. Where they'll wind up at the end of an arduous process remains to be seen.

The news about female officers continues to be poor.

The latest from the department is that four female candidates have been hired, which sounds very good. However, it's too early to get excited about this development because none of them had been through the department's "pre-academy" phase yet. Last winter, anywhere between three to six female candidates dropped out just during this phase with the exact number depending on whom you ask because the department claimed in a CPRA request response that it didn't have documents of record in relation to this issue. The nine female officers that were hired in January were allegedly down to zero by the end of February. About half of them allegedly dropped out during the "pre-academy" phase while others dropped out while attending the peace officer academy.

The "pre-academy" phase lasts about a week, the week before the recruits that were hired enter into the peace officer academy. It involves each recruit being shown first-hand how the department operates and what the job entails by other police officers. Leach told the city council in October that it allowed the department to see which ones would drop out before the department had invested too much money in their training. This made this phase of training appear to be more of a weeding out process than anything else.

Retention programs including mentorships that have worked so well in other law enforcement agencies are absent at the RPD. During Esquival's tenure, there had been plans to create programs for both women and men, but it is not clear whether those programs have come to fruition.

The objective #1.5 of the department's Strategic Plan which states that efforts are to be made to create a police department that better represents the city that it serves has clearly been reduced to representing simply a "general idea" and not a goal in ways many of the other objectives have not been. One word being batted around this year that went unmentioned last year, was that it wasn't about quotas, even though no one had held the department's feet to the fire about having to hire a specific number of either men of color or women. "Quota" of course is the strawman of choice for many individuals and leaders of organizations who do not wish to diversify their ranks, but simply want to remain as agencies which are primarily White and male.

The city council does not appear enlightened on the issues involved with improving recruitment and retention either, as shown by Councilman Steve Adams who had called retention programs including mentorships "remedial training for those who can't cut it" at a Sept. 10 city council meeting. His comments did generate some applause from a group of White police officers in attendance and a few head shakes from other people watching. It's been really odd and disheartening to see how other modern day law enforcement agencies eagerly embrace the advancements made in improving recruitment and retention of police officers that the RPD appears to still be running away from or in the case of the city's leadership, ridiculing.


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