Group reviews promotions, saying minorities are not advancing at a fast enough pace. Chief says progress is being made.
By Rachel Uranga STAFF WRITER
Despite a 15-year-old consent decree requiring the promotion of more minorities to command positions in the LAPD, some officer groups say the upper ranks still lack diversity, which fans tensions with Los Angeles' various communities.
Racial and ethnic minorities make up about 59 percent of all sworn personnel, but only 31 percent of all captains, commanders and chiefs, according to figures provided by the Los Angeles Police Department.
That disparity has prompted an organization representing about half of the department's 1,170 black officers to initiate its own review of promotions. It maintains there is bias in the selection process, with all minorities -- not just blacks -- being underrepresented among the LAPD's top brass.
"We have to pretend that this race thing doesn't exist," said Ronnie Cato, president of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, which represents 600 black officers. "Race is an issue. You feel comfortable with people who look like you."
But Chief William Bratton and other top officials say the department has worked hard to reform itself.
In 1992 -- when the city erupted in violence after the acquittal of four white officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King -- the LAPD was nearly 60 percent white. Today, just more than 41 percent of the 9,432-member department is white.
Bratton said the shift is a result of heavy recruiting efforts in minority neighborhoods. In addition, a mentoring program will be launched this month to help prepare minority officers for leadership roles. "We are a work in progress," he said, "but we are progressing very well."
Bratton said that during his five years as chief, he's promoted a black to head the elite Robbery-Homicide Division and that about half of the 22 newly promoted captains are Latino or black.
Two of Bratton's three hand-picked assistant chiefs are minorities -- one female, the other black -- and two of nine deputy chiefs are Latino.
"Have we gotten there yet? Absolutely not," said Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, the department's highest-ranking black and its operations director. "There are many areas throughout the community in Los Angeles where we need to be more responsive, not only in our work, but in the manner of how we look.
"But we have come a long way in the three decades that I have been with the LAPD. We have a much larger feeder pool today of African-Americans, Latinos, women and other ethnicities that are destined to matriculate to higher levels. Simple logistics will compel it to be so."
Promotions will be key over the coming years if the LAPD wants to gain the trust of the city's minority communities, said Art Placencia, president of the Latin American Law Enforcement Association's Los Angeles chapter.
Roughly one-third of the command staff and half of the deputy chiefs are expected to retire over the next five years, officials say, creating more opportunities at the top. Currently, two-thirds of the commanders, deputy chiefs and assistant chiefs are white, as is Bratton, who is seeking his second five-year term.
According to the LAPD, about 41 percent of its officers are white; 38 percent Latino; 12 percent black; 6 percent Asian; 2 percent Filipino; and 0.4 percent American Indian.
By comparison, the 2000 Census showed the city's makeup as roughly 47 percent white; 47 percent Latino; 12 percent black; 10 percent Asian; and 1 percent American Indian.