LAPD Successful in Recruiting Minorities and Women

L.C. Trostle

Trostle, Lawrence C. (1990). "LAPD Successful in Recruiting Minorities and Women." Alaska Justice Forum 7(3): 1, 6–8 (Fall 1990). The current recruitment motto of the Los Angeles Police Department is "our cops come in only one color, blue." This motto reflects LAPD's success in actively recruiting women and minorities in response to a 1980 federal consent decree mandating changes in its recruitment, selection, training, and employment practices. The decree resulted from a 1973 discrimination complaint made by Fanchon Blake and a complaint filed subsequently by the U.S. Attorney's office. LAPD has met its decree employment goal of 10.9 percent for blacks. For women and Hispanics the department has fallen short of its goals by 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively, but it is reasonable to expect that decree goals will be reached in the near future.

Lawrence Trostle recently joined the Justice Center as Associate Professor of Justice. He was previously with the Claremont Graduate School. He co-directed the study presented in the following article.

The current recruitment motto of the Los Angeles Police Department is "our cops come in only one color, blue." This motto reflects the department's success in actively recruiting women and minorities in response to a consent decree entered into in 1980. In 1988 the Center for Politics and Public Policy at the Claremont Graduate School undertook a study which focused on the effects of the consent decree on the recruitment efforts, training policies and operation of the Los Angeles Police Department. The results of this study carry implications for the recruitment policies of many urban police forces, suggesting that the experience of the LAPD can provide guidance for other departments serving ethnically diverse areas.

Historical Background

In January 1971, then Chief of Police Edward Davis informed the department's sworn female personnel (Policewoman was a job-specific classification, contrasting with Policeman) that "women are no longer wanted or needed by the L.A.P.D."

This philosophy was reflected in the department's hiring policy: between 1970 and 1973 no new female officers joined the LAPD and the approximately 200 existing women officers were reassigned to receptionist-secretarial jobs without a formal change in their job classification. The reorganization plan for the department, adopted in January 1971, essentially prohibited female officers from being promoted above the rank of Sergeant or Investigator II. Fanchon Blake, a 25-year veteran of the department and an Investigator II who was on the promotion list for Investigator III, was informed by her captain that she would no longer be considered for a promotion to Investigator III because she was a woman.

In 1973 Blake brought suit against the city and the police department, alleging employment discrimination based on sexual prejudice. She was joined by other LAPD policewomen in a class action suit. In May 1977, the Federal District Court granted summary judgment on behalf of the city and LAPD. In June 1977, the United States Attorney General brought suit against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD alleging employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin for sworn officer positions of the LAPD. Due to the pending federal action, Law Enforcement Administration Agency (LEAA) funding was denied to LAPD. The U.S. District Court again found for the City of Los Angeles and LAPD. Both of the cases (Blake and the Justice Department's action) were subsequently appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and decided as "companion" cases in March 1980. The Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD restricting the hiring of sworn personnel. An appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied in April 1990.

As a result of the Court of Appeals decision the City of Los Angeles entered into a consent decree with both parties to the suit, establishing long-range goals for the employment of women and minorities as sworn officers in the LAPD. For Hispanics and Blacks the long-range goals are to achieve the same proportions within the LAPD as in the labor force of the Los Angeles Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area. At least 22.5 per cent of all entry-level positions must be filled by Hispanics, and the same proportion by Blacks. For women, the long-range goal requires that 25 per cent of personnel appointed annually be women until their numbers total 20 per cent of all sworn personnel.

Objective and Purpose of the Study

The overall objective of the Claremont study was to determine the extent of operational and administrative change produced in the Los Angeles Police Department by the consent decree. The importance of the research lies in the discovery of solid information upon which to base future policy decisions regarding the quota hiring of women and minority police officers.


The study involved reviewing official LAPD documents and disseminating questionnaires.

The study sample consisted of 2000 police officers, stratified by gender and ethnicity. The sampling frame consisted of the roster of all Los Angeles Police Department sworn personnel.

Approximately 1043 usable returns were received, representing a 52 per cent response rate. Comparisons between the original and final sample as well as between the demographics of respondents and nonrespondents revealed no systematic biases due to sampling or nonreponse error.

Upon receipt of the completed, self-administered questionnaires various comparisons of self-reported performance and attitudinal data were made. Here, performance and attitude variables for female and minority officers were compared with those of white, male officers and those estimated for all Los Angeles Police Department sworn personnel. Comparison variables consisted of academy experiences, probationary experiences, interest in police work, job attitudes, professionalism and cynicism.


Over the last decade the LAPD has met its goal for Blacks: 10.9 per cent of all current sworn personnel are Black. However, for women and Hispanics the department falls short of its goals of 20 per cent and 24.6 per cent by approximately 8 per cent and 4 per cent respectively. Nonetheless, analysis of the data clearly indicates that LAPD has met its annual goals for each group. Though the department has not yet achieved its long-range goals for Hispanics and women, it is reasonable to believe that it will do so in the near future. The reason for optimism is that the training classes entering the academy in 1990 include high percentages of Hispanic and female officers. The proportion of male Caucasians in the department has decreased, primarily through attrition, from a 1980 high of 78.8 per cent to the 1990 level of 56.5 per cent.

Prior to the consent decree, the rates of attrition in the police academy for Black and female officers were particularly high. While the overall attrition rate was determined to be 26 per cent, Blacks and women had rates of 45 per cent and 50 per cent respectively. Since the consent decree, these attrition rates have decreased significantly to 19 per cent for Blacks and 30 per cent for women. This decrease is a result of improved retention and recruitment programs as well as heightened consciousness among the training staff of the necessity to remediate rather than discharge seemingly marginal candidates.

An assessment of the representation of women, Blacks and Hispanics in staff, command, supervisory, and investigative positions reveals percentages significantly lower than the current representations of these groups in entry-level positions. It is possible that low overall vacancy rates resulting from low employee turnover in staff, command and supervisory positions may have impeded the progress of women and minorities into all positions. The study indicated that the total number of positions for these officer categories has decreased 0.3 per cent, i.e., four positions over the last decade.

Figure 1. Employment Figures for Women and Minorities, LAPD

Officer Responses

In reviewing the self-reported data from the responding officers it was found that both minority and Caucasian male officers are most likely to become police officers for reasons related to job security. Female officers, in contrast, enter police work because of a desire to earn a higher salary.

Approximately one in every three LAPD officers sampled reported being injured in some way during academy training. No significant differences were found in this rate as a function of ethnicity. However, one out of every two female officers reported being injured during academy training in contrast to a rate of one of every four for male officers.

Knee injuries were the most commonly reported injury for female and non-minority officers. Male and minority officers most commonly reported suffering an ankle injury. Overall, significant differences in reported injuries were found to exist between all LAPD and female officers and between male and female officers. Men reported more hand, ankle, chest, head and shoulder injuries than women, whereas women reported more knee, back/spine and arm injuries than men. It is worth noting that the LAPD has developed a pre-academy training program primarily to assist female recruits in physically and mentally preparing themselves for the police academy.

Overall, the total LAPD sample felt that their academy training provided "very good" preparation for street duty. No significant difference in this rating was discovered between minority and non-minority officers. Overall ratings of academy training by female officers were significantly lower than those by other officer groups, but nonetheless "very good."

Overall, 85 per cent of LAPD officers sampled reported receiving at least one commendation during their probationary period. This percentage did not vary statistically as a function of either gender or ethnicity. The average number of commendations received during probationary training by those officers who received at least one commendation was three. This number also did not vary according to gender or ethnicity.

On average, 29 per cent of all LAPD officers were the subject of at least one citizen complaint during their probationary training period. The only officer group to depart significantly from this average was that of female officers: 22 per cent were the subject of at least one citizen complaint. Among those officers who were the subject of at least one citizen complaint during probation, the average number received was only one, irrespective of gender or ethnicity.

The majority of officers reported taking no sick days during their probationary period; however, female officers reported taking significantly more sick days overall. In fact, approximately one-seventh of all women reported taking five or more sick days during their probationary period, in contrast to one-twentieth of all LAPD officers reporting the same level.

Overall, most officers reported their probationary training as "somewhat difficult." Although this rating was also reported by female officers, women were more likely to report their probationary training period as more difficult than the other groups.

General job satisfaction levels reported for all police officers indicated that they were "very satisfied," irrespective of ethnicity or gender. Moreover, regardless of gender or ethnicity, all LAPD officer groups agreed that, if starting over, they would again select their present career with the LAPD. The majority of LAPD officers stated that their present job measures up to their expectations. Statistical differences due to gender or ethnicity were not discovered. Also regardless of gender or ethnicity, all LAPD officer groups stated that they were willing to work harder than they had in the past to help LAPD succeed in its mission and that they would not accept a job outside of the department for higher pay. Irrespective of gender or ethnicity, all LAPD officer groups stated that their values and those of the department were similar, and most officers also agreed that "their jobs demanded a high degree of skill." However, the general level of agreement with this statement for female officers was statistically lower than for other officer groups. Most officers stated that they had a good deal of variety in their respective positions; however, perceived job variety was significantly higher among minority officers than it was among other officer subpopulations.

The Niederhoffer Police Cynicism Index was used to explore levels of professionalism among officers. The Index contains twelve statements for each of which one of three possible responses is chosen. One possible response reflects a professional view of the police function; another, a neutral view; the third, a cynical approach. The twelve statements cover a variety of police concerns. Total cynicism index scores for all officer groups revealed no significant differences in overall cynicism averages between LAPD and either male, female, minority or non-minority subgroups. In addition, it was also discovered that the composite index scores for the total LAPD sample and officer subpopulations fell far below the average needed to attain a "cynical" rating. Thus, the general outlook of LAPD sworn personnel, irrespective of gender or ethnicity, is more likely to be professional rather than cynical towards the police officer's role in society.

The results suggest that most officers feel that their present administrative environment affords them adequate opportunity to achieve their career goals and aspirations. The findings of low cynicism among female and minority officer subclasses provides for a positive interpretation: female and minority officers are likely to view their past and future opportunities within the current LAPD administration as equal to those of other officers, including Caucasian male officers.

The Claremont study suggests that law enforcement agencies, albeit reluctantly, can adapt to change. As a result of the federal litigation and the subsequent Blake Consent Decree, the Los Angeles Police Department made a philosophical as well as a verbal commitment to compliance. In fulfilling that commitment the department restructured hiring practices, created innovative pre-academy training programs to prepare female and minority recruits for the training experience, became much more flexible in retaining recruits who were experiencing difficulties and demonstrated a willingness to recycle them as necessary. Since there are no data available on the attitudes of the pre-Blake police officer, no valid comparisons can be made between earlier personnel and post-consent-decree officers. However, there are data which suggest that present sworn personnel are highly committed to professional standards and that the ranks of the department are much more reflective of the ethnic diversity of the city than they were a decade ago.

(The research upon which this article is based was supported by a grant from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation. Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the foundation.)