Updated: July 3rd, 2006 12:40 PM EDT

Los Angeles Times

Decked out in his new uniform blues, David Gamero represents one important victory for the Los Angeles Police Department. He’s a successful LAPD recruit.

Gamero, 34, was recently persuaded to leave the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to join the LAPD, and he was part of a graduating class of 39 officers last month.

The officer was drawn by a $4,000 bump in salary and the opportunity to trade working in the county jails for driving a patrol car with a partner through the streets of South Los Angeles.

“That’s why 99% of people join the police, to get out on the street,” he said.

As Los Angeles tries to add 1,000 officers in five years to the smallest big-city police department in the nation, it has found there haven’t been enough David Gameros to go around.

The LAPD and police departments around the country are engaged in an intense competition over an increasingly limited pool of suitable people interested in becoming cops.

In Los Angeles, the department is fortifying its recruitment efforts in its drive to beat out other departments and attract the elusive recruit. The department has increased its full-time recruitment team from two to 12. It is offering a $1,000 cash reward to any employee who brings in a successful recruit. And recruiters are hitting the college job-placement circuits.

“We are going to make this happen,” said William Scott DeYoung, chief of police recruiting for the personnel department. “There is a lot of cachet not only to the LAPD, but also the city.”

Several factors have combined to leave police departments hard-pressed to fill their ranks. They include mass retirements by the baby boomer generation, a strong economy providing better-paying jobs in the private sector and a military that is bulked up and repeatedly extending the service commitments of soldiers who might otherwise become police officers, according to Jason Abend, executive director of the National Law Enforcement Recruiters Assn.

Everybody’s feeling the pinch: New York City is struggling to hire 3,300 officers this year, Abend said. Chicago, which used to have a waiting list of applicants, now must scramble to keep recruits in the pipeline.

And, in California, law enforcement agencies are facing a collective 8,500 vacancies, according to Bob Stesak of the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. Five years ago, the 39 police academies in the state were turning out 4,500 new officers annually; this year they are expected to graduate fewer than 3,000.

“It’s incredibly competitive,” said Margaret Whelan, personnel director for the city of Los Angeles. “Everybody is hiring. Everybody is drawing from the same pool.”

With fewer candidates available for a greater number of police jobs, law enforcement agencies throughout the country are having to take unusual steps — from offering fat signing bonuses to airing seductive TV commercials in other cities — to gain a competitive edge and keep their ranks staffed.

Los Angeles — where the City Council is considering expanding the bounty offer of $1,000 to include any nonprofit agency that brings in a recruit — faces some special hurdles. These include high housing costs and lingering fallout from controversies such as the Rampart Division police corruption scandal. Also, the city has found it particularly difficult to attract African American recruits because of long-standing views among some minorities, particularly blacks, that the department is hostile to them.

Recruits from people leaving the military — who once made up 30% of the LAPD’s new hires — have dwindled to 10% or less. And the department still struggles to keep its officers from jumping to other agencies. Although the LAPD has lured 13 from other departments this year, it has lost 18 to law enforcement organizations offering better pay, newer equipment and less stressful working conditions, LAPD officials said.

Years of tight budgets have left Los Angeles as the most under-policed big city in the nation. The LAPD fields one officer for every 411 residents, compared with New York City, which has one officer per 207 residents, and Chicago, with one officer for every 210 residents.

The Los Angeles Police Department fell 323 officers short of its expansion plans for the fiscal year that ended Friday. The police force was supposed to grow during the last year by 370 officers, to a total of 9,611.

The LAPD has 315 recruits in the Police Academy who will be graduating during the next seven months. At that rate, and taking attrition into account, the LAPD could fall more than 100 short of the 650 new officers budgeted, although recruiters are intent on preventing that.

Those who do make it into the Police Academy are in for a seven-month regimen that is physically and mentally grueling. They face college-level classes and an intense physical fitness program, driving lessons and weapons drills that test their stamina and precision performance under pressure.

“It’s very challenging, physically, mentally, academically,” said Officer Leticia Ruiz, who graduated in March. “It pushed us to do our best.”

Recruits have to run, climb over walls and perform pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups. Plus, they have to do it all quickly — a prelude to the kind of rigors they will face on the streets. Some recruits drop out under the pressure, while others suffer injuries that put their training on hold while they recover, said recruitment chief DeYoung.

The class that finished in April started with 47 recruits, but only 34 graduated, DeYoung said. “Some people discover they are just not ready for that kind of physical regimen. Others realize ‘Oh, I might not want to shoot people,’ ” he said.

Ruiz has wanted to be a police officer since high school, drawn by the excitement and the chance to help people. “It’s not repetitive,” she said. “Every day is different.”

She thought a big-city department would offer her plenty of opportunities for advancement and special assignments.

“I don’t like small departments. You are limited in what you can do,” she said. The Sheriff’s Department was not attractive because of the years of jail work required of new deputies, she said.

Aiming to keep the academy operating at full strength, LAPD recruiters are bolstering their own ranks and intend to keep in close contact with 60 area colleges to cultivate new officers. The advertising budget for police recruitment has been increased from $1.5 million to $3.5 million.

But other agencies have boosted their efforts too.

The Sheriff’s Department, which hopes to hire 1,000 new deputies this year, has increased its starting pay by 13.5%, according to Sgt. Val Rosario.

The private firm PolicePay.Net lists the LAPD as the 22nd-best law enforcement agency among the 200 largest in the nation in terms of salary and benefits — although 17 other California police agencies provide better compensation packages.

The LAPD and other agencies, including the San Diego Police Department and Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, pay employees bonuses to bring in new recruits. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department, which wants to hire 300 deputies this year, has even upped the ante, offering bonuses up to $5,000 to police officers who transfer to the department.

To expand the pool of potential officers, the LAPD has taken several steps over the years, including raising the maximum age for recruits and forgiving some drug use if it was a one-time incident far in the past. Nonetheless, only 11% of the people who apply to become Los Angeles police officers make it through the tough battery of tests and background checks.

That means the department has to recruit nearly 6,000 applicants for screening to net 650 new officers. Yet the number of people taking the tests has plummeted from 12,714 in 2000 to 5,545 last year.

Police Chief William J. Bratton believes the expanded budget and staffing for police recruiting will turn things around.

“There is, reflecting the mayor’s prioritization of hiring a thousand more officers, a lot more attention and resources being put into it,” Bratton said.

But the competition for recruits is a nationwide phenomenon. New York City, Honolulu, Phoenix and other cities have sent police recruiters to Southern California within the last year.

Phoenix, which wants to hire 372 officers this year, preceded its recruiters with a cable TV spot in Los Angeles. Recruiters also handed out fliers contrasting their city’s home prices with those in Los Angeles County. The Phoenix recruitment foray, which included visits to Cal State L.A. and Cal State Long Beach, drew more than 300 applicants, several of whom were hired, according to that city’s Police Department.

The LAPD and the county Sheriff’s Department are also trying their luck in other cities.

Teams of recruiters from both agencies will head to Chicago on July 15 for the national Gay Games, which both agencies are co-sponsoring, to scout for potential officers.

Pat Camden, a deputy director for the Chicago Police Department, said he is not worried that his L.A. counterparts will make much of a dent in the pool of candidates available to protect and serve the Second City: He doesn’t anticipate many people from Illinois being willing to pay twice or three times as much for a house in Southern California.

“The only problem is,” Camden said, “you have to live out there.”


Recruiting challenges force department to reach far afield for officers

BY JOSH KLEINBAUM, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

Like most kids, Munish Bharadwaja played cops and robbers with friends, watched TV shows featuring police officers and thought law enforcement was just one of those cool jobs.

Then reality set in.

Bharadwaja, who was born in India and grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from high school and went to the University of California, Irvine. He considered graduate school but decided to enter the business world instead and worked for three telecommunications companies over the next decade.

He was good at it and was named CEO last year of a company that sold cell-phone accessories. But he never forgot about his childhood dream.

On Friday, Bharadwaja graduated from the LAPD’s Police Academy. And today, he will trade his suit and tie for a badge and gun when he reports for duty as a patrol officer in the Harbor Division.

“For a lot of people, change is something they don’t look forward to,” Bharadwaja said. “I decided, at 34, it was time. It was either do it now, or I’d never do it.

“I didn’t want to put off my dreams for the rest of my life.”

In an ongoing recruiting battle that is becoming more and more challenging, the LAPD is looking for people just like Bharadwaja – those willing to give up promising careers in other fields to wear the uniform.

The LAPD has the money to recruit 1,000 additional police officers, but is facing stiff competition from other agencies and the military.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many cities have increased funding for their police forces and most departments – including those in communities around Los Angeles – are hiring.

Some who would typically apply for a police job are going to the military instead, and extended service requirements because of the Iraq war have cut off a usually reliable source of recruits.

In the fiscal year of 2002-03, 9,397 people applied to be LAPD officers, and 691 were hired. In fiscal 2004-05, only 5,545 applied, and 381 were hired.

This year, not a single Police Academy class has reached its 60-person maximum. Three classes had fewer than 40 recruits. Only 25 officers graduated in Bharadwaja’s class.

“I can’t think of an agency that’s not hiring,” said LAPD Cmdr. Kenny Garner, head of the department’s Personnel Division. “Everybody’s looking for law enforcement-type people, and there’s definitely a drain on the resources to get them in.”

With the heightened competition, the LAPD is looking to increase its applicant pool by finding people like Bharadwaja.

“A lot of people are in midlife crises,” LAPD Chief William Bratton said. “They’re looking for other things, new careers. We want them to think about the LAPD.”

The initiative – aided by the fact that the LAPD lifted the age cap in 2003 to settle a discrimination lawsuit – has already had some success.

D. Michele Vrolyks was a chemist for a pharmaceutical company before joining the LAPD. Now she’s a patrol officer in Wilshire Division.

Kristina Broadhurst has a medical degree from Harvard University and an MBA from UCLA, but she’s in the LAPD’s academy for reserve officers and is considering joining the force full time once she pays off student loans.

Officer James Miller went to Faith Baptist Bible College in Iowa and served as a minister for five years in the late 1990s. Abraham Schefres, a patrol officer in the Devonshire area, is a rabbi.

“If somebody told me 20 years ago I would be in the reserve academy and loving it as much as I do, I’d have said, `You’ve got to be kidding me,”‘ said Broadhurst, who works in the medical affairs group of a pharmaceutical company. “I never thought of it in my life.”

That is, until she became friends with some full-time LAPD officers.

“My understanding of policing was at the same level of what the general public perceives policing to be,” she said. “What I found is that the LAPD provides so many ways of serving the community, and there are so many opportunities in being part of the LAPD. The people I met in the LAPD are more dynamic than the people I work with on a day-to-day basis.”

Like Bharadwaja, Miller grew up thinking about becoming a police officer. But he came from a strong Baptist family in Redding and was also drawn to theology. When it came time to go to college, he opted for Bible school.

“I loved school, studying different subjects, taking Greek, Hebrew and theology courses,” Miller said. “But then I tried it out and realized it wasn’t really my personality, it didn’t really fit. I’m more of a one-on-one type person, not a one-on-group type person.”

He left the seminary in 2000 and joined the Marines, where he learned to fly fighter jets. During the Battle of Fallujah in 2004, Miller coordinated airstrikes and medevacs from the ground for American forces.

When he was discharged from the Marines in February 2005, he immediately applied for the LAPD. He’s been a patrol officer in Newton Division for two months.

His background as a minister “helps me have a different perspective and understanding of people I’m dealing with than other police officers do,” he said. “Anything that anyone’s done in their past is going to help them as a police officer. If you’ve worked at McDonald’s, it would help you as a police officer.”

The LAPD continues to search for officers in unusual places.

In July, the department will be a sponsor at the Gay Games in Chicago and will give potential recruits the opportunity to take an entrance exam.

Sometime this summer, recruiters plan to go to Detroit to talk to workers laid off from the auto industry. The department’s layoff coordinator keeps tabs on other struggling industries that could provide a pool of potential officers.

“There’s a certain percentage of people who know that they want to be a police officer, and they’re coming to us,” Garner said. “But there are other individuals who could make good officers who don’t even know what law enforcement is. Part of our challenge is to bring the LAPD to them.”

This article was reprinted from the May 1, 2006 edition of the LA Daily News.

Eds: UPDATES thruout. The Mayor’s communications office can be reached at (213) 978-0741.

By ART MARROQUIN, City News Service

RESEDA (CNS) – Hoping to fulfill a campaign promise to expand the Los Angeles Police Department, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today proposed a hike in the city’s trash collection fees to hire more officers.

“It’s a bit of a controversial plan, but I think it makes common sense,” Villaraigosa told about 40 officers at the LAPD’s West Valley Division this afternoon. “We live in a world where people want more services but they don’t want to pay for them.”

Villaraigosa’s plan calls for phasing-in a $17 increase for trash-hauling fees over the next four years.

Every new dollar collected, he said, would go toward hiring more police.

Police Chief William Bratton said he welcomed the idea.

“Over the next several years, we will be opening several new police stations, including one here in the Valley. They have to be staffed and we need resources,” he said.

Los Angeles residents currently pay an $11 monthly equipment fee for their trash containers, in addition to vehicle purchases and maintenance costs.

If approved by the full City Council, the fee hike would only apply to the residents of single-family homes. Homeowners would start paying $18 each month for trash collection when the new fiscal year begins July 1. The fee would be increased by $4 in each of the following two years, then by $2 the next year, reaching a maximum of $28.

Apartment residents would not be affected by the fee hike because their rent includes trash collection.

The city currently subsidizes the overall cost of hauling trash at a cost of $315 million annually, according to the mayor’s office.

The $11 equipment fee currently paid by Los Angeles residents is lower than what residents from all but three of the 81 other cities in Los Angeles County pay for trash collection, according to a Department of Public Works study released in 2004.

The plan to hike trash fees comes after the council agreed last month to spend $3 million to $5 million more annually to divert 600 tons of the city’s 3,600-ton daily waste stream from Sunshine Canyon in Granada Hills to landfills in Riverside and Kings counties.

City Councilman Jack Weiss, head of the council’s Public Safety Committee, called the idea “the best and most fair plan I’ve ever seen to add cops to the LAPD.

“It is a fair plan because all it asks our homeowners to do is to pay a little more for services they’ve been receiving that have been subsidized by everyone else,” he said.

Villaraigosa said the fee hike is needed to pay for 1,000 new police officers as the city grapples with a $295 million deficit in its $6 billion annual budget.

“The fact is our city officers are outnumbered, and we remain the most under-policed big city in the United States of America,” the mayor said. “This plan changes that.”

Fewer people are signing up to join the LAPD, despite a variety of programs to seek new recruits — including a $2 million advertising campaign targeting women and minorities.

Villaraigosa said he was committed to finding officers to fill the positions. He is considering incentives, such as offering $1,000 bonuses for officers who refer recruits, and increasing Web-based hiring efforts.

The city allocated funding to hire 369 officers during the current fiscal year, but the LAPD expects to bring on only 270 to 280 new hires.

Retirement also poses a problem for the department, as 1,100 officers are expected to leave the department over the next four years.

To help bolster the ranks, the LAPD and city officials are considering whether to offer incentives such as a pension buy-out for officers wanting to transfer to Los Angeles and a home ownership program to help officers buy homes in the city.

“I understand full well the dangers they face on the streets every day, and it’s my priority to give them the resources they need to stay safe,” Villaraigosa said.

Additionally, the City Council is set to decide within weeks whether a deferred retirement program for LAPD officers should be extended for another five years to give the understaffed department more time to recruit officers.

Date: 04-12-2006 5:22 PM – Word Count: 726

Officer Recruitment

Eds: Bratton aide Mary Grady can be reached at (213) 485-3205.

By ART MARROQUIN, City News Service

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles Police Department is aggressively seeking new recruits through a variety of programs, relaxed hiring practices and aggressive advertising, police Chief William Bratton said today.

“We’re hiring and we desperately need people to join up,” Bratton said during a news conference at the LAPD’s dispatch center.

The city allocated funding to hire 369 officers during the current fiscal year which ends June 30, but the LAPD expects to bring in only 270 to 280 new hires.

“Everybody’s hiring. We’re competing for a very small pool of candidates,” Bratton said. “We have very high standards to enter the department. The irony of it is that we finally have the funds to expand the size of the department, but we’re struggling.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said he wants to hire more than 1,000 new officers before the end of his term.

In hopes of bolstering the force, LAPD officials relaxed the department’s stringent guidelines on hiring recruits with bad credit and those who openly admitted to past drug use.

Additionally, the city’s Personnel Department is spending $2 million in advertising during the current fiscal year to recruit more racial minorities and women as LAPD candidates.

Bratton said he also hopes to gather recruits from the Los Angeles Police Academy Magnet School Program, which was established at five high schools in 1996 to prepare about 1,185 students annually for careers in law enforcement.

The department currently allows more civilians to conduct administrative duties at police stations so that more officers can patrol the streets. But officials want to extend that opportunity to those with past law enforcement or military experience who are waiting on a background check and academy training to become an LAPD officer, according to Lt. Kenneth Garner, head of the LAPD’s Personnel Group.

Additionally, Councilman Greig Smith unveiled two proposals last month that he said would help the city attract qualified police officers and firefighters.

Smith wants to expand a home ownership program that helps officers and firefighters buy homes in Los Angeles, rather than in neighboring cities.

With the median home in Los Angeles around $575,000, some officers and firefighters cannot afford property in the city, and as a result, many public safety personnel live in suburbs such as Santa Clarita and Simi Valley, according to Smith, a reserve police officer.

Smith also wants the city to be able to buy out the pensions of officers and firefighters who want to transfer to Los Angeles from other jobs with other public safety agencies in California.

Police Retirements

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A City Council committee agreed today that a deferred retirement program for LAPD officers should be extended for another five years to give the understaffed department more time to recruit new officers.

The council’s Personnel Committee unanimously agreed to extend the LAPD’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, which provides better retirement packages for veteran officers who agree to postpone retirement.

Extending the DROP program for the LAPD’s commanders is also in the works, as negotiations are under way with the police union, according to Cmdr. Kenneth Garner, head of the department’s Personnel Group.

The LAPD is facing a dramatic departure of seasoned officers when DROP begins pushing them into mandatory retirement next year.

More than 1,600 police officers and city firefighters who previous signed up for the DROP program will be required to retire over the next five years, including fire Chief William Bamattre, Bratton said.

In the fiscal year that starts July 1, the LAPD will lose one deputy chief, four commanders, seven captains and 116 detectives, according to a report recently prepared by Bratton.

The DROP program, initiated in 2002, allows police officers and firefighters with at least 30 years of service to continue working at full salary and receive pension payments, which are put into holding accounts.

At the end of five years, the employee gets the five years worth of pension checks. The worker also benefits because his or her pension payment rate will have been boosted by five years of cost-of-living increases.

Police Hiring

March 24, 2006

Date: 03-24-2006 7:12 AM – Word Count: 625

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The LAPD will face a dramatic departure of seasoned officers when a deferred retirement program begins pushing them into mandatory retirement next year, it was reported today.

The deferred retirement program enacted four years ago was aimed at giving the department time to recruit more officers, but hiring has lagged behind expectations, in part due to budget problems, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Now, more than 1,600 officers and city firefighters will be required to retire over the next five years, and the police and fire departments will have to plug the vacancies.

“People will start bailing out this next fiscal year,” police Chief William Bratton told The Times. “We are starting to experience that trickle, but it will get to be a much more significant number in 2007 and 2008.”

Those required to retire include four of the department’s eight deputy police chiefs and 264 detectives, among them some of the department’s most seasoned investigators.

In the coming fiscal year starting July 1, the department will lose one deputy chief, four commanders, seven captains and 116 detectives, the newspaper reported.

At the fire department, those who must retire because of the Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP, include Chief William Bamattre, who will go in 2008.

Beyond the chief, the program poses less of a challenge to the fire department because that agency has little trouble attracting recruits.

But recruiting for the LAPD is much more difficult.

The DROP program was instituted in 2002 to sweeten the pot for workers who agreed then to postpone their departures to allow the LAPD a few years to grow significantly before so many employees retired. It was intended to last five

“The whole purpose of DROP was to give the city a window of opportunity to recruit more people, which they haven’t done a real good job with,” said Bob Baker, president of the Police Protective League.

As Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa prepares his budget for the next fiscal year, he has to factor the loss of people into his plans to expand the departments. The fallout from the retirement program also could have political implications, The Times reported.

Villaraigosa was elected last year while promising to expand the police force by 1,000 officers during his first term.

To do that, he would have to expand the police force by an average of 250 officers per year. But the retirement program means that he also has to make up for hundreds of retirements before the police force can grow.

In a normal year, about 300 officers retire, but for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 238 others are facing mandatory departure.

That means Villaraigosa would have to hire 788 officers, slightly more than the capacity of the Police Academy, next year to make up for attrition and achieve his expansion goal. Recruits spend seven months at the academy.

Under deferred retirement, a police officer or firefighter who has at least 30 years of service can continue to work at full salary and receive pension payments, which are put into holding accounts.

At the end of five years, the employee gets the five years worth of pension checks. The worker also benefits because his or her pension payment rate will have been boosted by five years of cost-of-living increases.

The current city budget calls for the police force to reach 9,611 officers by July 1, still fewer than the department put on the streets at its peak eight years ago, when sworn ranks totaled 9,852. There now are 9,314 officers.

Bratton said he is working on the assumption that the retirement program will not be renewed, so he has begun grooming some mid-level command staff to take over for superiors.

CNS-03-24-2006 07:12

Police Recruitment

November 15, 2005

By ART MARROQUIN, City News Service

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles Police Department has relaxed its stringent guidelines on hiring recruits in hopes of bolstering the force, a city official confirmed today.

In August, Chief William Bratton said he wanted to ease restrictions on hiring recruits with bad credit and those who openly admitted to past drug use.

During his report to the Police Commission on the LAPD’s recruitment efforts, Raul Lemus of the city’s Personnel Department confirmed that authorities are now following Bratton’s instructions.

Lemus, who oversees background investigations in the Personnel Department, also told the commission that the department continues to have trouble recruiting women and blacks.

The Personnel Department is spending $2 million in advertising this year in an effort to recruit a diverse pool of LAPD candidates, according to William Scott DeYoung of the city’s Personnel Department. The department shelled out $1.5 million for LAPD recruitment advertising last year.

The LAPD will spend the money on billboards, the Internet, the radio and even niche markets to lure black, Latino, Asian and gay and lesbian recruits.

The LAPD’s force is 12.9 percent black, 36.4 percent Latino, 7.5 percent Asian and 43.2 percent white.

Nearly 19 percent of the LAPD’s staffers are female, but the LAPD does not keep statistics on the number of gay and lesbian workers.

Police Commission President John Mack told DeYoung that recruitment ads aimed at racial minorities should be revised.

“I listened to one of those ads, and it didn’t do anything to get my attention,” said Mack, former president of the Los Angeles Urban League.

DeYoung told Mack that he would discuss the matter with the advertising agency that handles the LAPD recruiting account.

Struggling to lure more officers, the Los Angeles Police Department is joining a growing number of law enforcement agencies across the nation in considering less stringent recruitment rules.

Police Chief William J. Bratton said he was drawing up the proposed changes, which would end the LAPD’s zero-tolerance rule toward past marijuana use and make it easier for the department to hire people with bad credit histories.

Bratton’s idea has ignited a debate within the department, with some fearing that lower standards would bring problem officers to the force and create the potential for more misconduct and corruption. Others question whether people who admit to breaking the law in the past can be trusted not to commit crimes in the future.

But outside law enforcement experts said it would not be a radical departure from what many other agencies already are doing. Some said the rules would end up making the LAPD look more like the population it serves.

“It’s definitely not your father’s Los Angeles of 1955,” said Eugene O’Donnell, professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “It’s one of those ironies that LAPD, in a city that’s pretty hip and sophisticated, is still somewhat trapped in a time capsule.”

O’Donnell said that a police department should have police officers with “real-life experience,” which can involve marijuana use and even some minor criminal problems, so that the department can better deal with “real-world problems.”

Bratton said some of the LAPD’s standards regarding drug use and a candidate’s financial history may be “artificially high.” He is considering reducing the department’s zero-tolerance drug requirement so it is in line with federal law enforcement standards. The FBI requires its candidates to have no more than 15 uses of marijuana and not within the three years before the application date. The FBI also requires that other drugs, including steroids, not be used more than five times and not within 10 years of the application date.

“The reality is, kids today … may in fact have sampled drugs some time in their life,” Bratton said this month. “Does that mean we should automatically disqualify them? I don’t believe so.”

The move comes as the department is pushing to meet its goal of a 10,000-officer force by next summer. To enter the LAPD, candidates must undergo a series of tests and evaluations, including a background check, a psychological evaluation, a physical abilities test and a polygraph. Only one in 12 candidates makes it through the process, said Scott DeYoung, the department’s chief personnel analyst.

Bratton has long pushed to expand the LAPD, pointing out that the police force is far smaller per capita than those in other major cities, including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Until now, city officials have been unable to fund Bratton’s goal of boosting the force to at least 12,000 officers.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said hiring new officers is a top priority. So if more money is found for additional hiring, Bratton’s proposed recruitment rules — if approved by the City Council and the Police Commission — could bring new officers on more quickly.

But some are skeptical.

“Anything that would reduce standards, we would have a serious concern about,” said Los Angeles police union President Bob Baker. “We certainly don’t want to reduce the qualifications it takes to become a police officer.”

Michael Lyman, a criminal justice professor at Columbia College in Missouri, said he was dubious about recruits who have broken the law by possessing marijuana, a misdemeanor.

“I think what this is doing is inviting trouble, because you are bringing a known rotten apple into the barrel,” he said. “If he/she has been willing to break the law prior to becoming a police officer, what’s to say if they are going to be any different behind the badge?”

Relaxing recruitment policies — though in a much more extreme way than Bratton is proposing — has brought problems to some police departments. In 1993, there were 79 arrests of officers in Washington, D.C. Police attributed the problems with the classes hired in 1989 and 1990, when investigators, in an effort to quickly build up the force, did not spend as much time doing background checks and interviewing candidates’ former employers.

Last year, the D.C. police force significantly toughened its recruitment rules, requiring candidates to have some college credits. The change came after studies suggested that officers who attended college may have better comprehension skills in court, write better reports and are apt to resolve situations with less use of force, said Capt. Kevin Anderson, director of recruiting for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington.

“It does make recruiting harder,” Anderson said, adding that it has cut the number of applicants in half. “In the long run, it’s supposed to make for a better officer and a better department.”

Still, Bratton’s proposal is generally in line with what other departments are trying.

In recent years, the Chicago and New York police departments have dropped their minimum age for applicants to 21 from, respectively, 23 and 22.

Several metropolitan police departments such as New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Miami-Dade and Boston have less stringent policies on drug use.

In Boston, candidates are not automatically disqualified if they admit to using drugs in the past. Candidates are disqualified, however, if they are convicted of a felony. In Detroit, a candidate who hasn’t smoked marijuana in the last five years may still be considered for a job.

Miami-Dade’s police force also allows past marijuana use but requires that applicants have not used the drug within the last two years. But for many police departments, any past use of felony drugs, such as cocaine or opium, disqualifies the candidate.

Sgt. Ronnie Cato, president of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, an organization of black LAPD officers, said Bratton’s announcement will open the doors to minority recruits who often fail the department’s background check because of bad credit history arising from divorce or low-paying jobs.

Cato said some minority officers rejected from the LAPD get hired at other local law enforcement agencies such as the school and airport police.

In addition, Cato said, there are a lot of young people who have experimented with marijuana in college.

“If your president can smoke a joint, if your Congress people can smoke a joint, you mean to tell me a police officer can’t smoke the joint when they were in college?”

Wendy Lee. “LAPD May Relax Its Hiring Rules” Los Angeles Times Monday August 29, 2005
pg. B.1