Pubdate: Tue, 15 Nov 2005
Source: Daily Breeze (CA)
Copyright: 2005 The Copley Press Inc.
Author:  Matt Krasnowski, Copley News Service


"The erosion of background standards comes back to haunt the city," 
Councilman Bernard Parks says.

Two city councilmen said Monday they will ask the Los Angeles Police 
Department to freeze hiring policy changes allowing new recruits on 
the force who have used drugs in the past.

Councilman Bernard Parks, a former LAPD chief, said he and Councilman 
Dennis Zine, a former police officer, will ask their colleagues later 
this week that the changes be reviewed by the City Council and the 
Police Commission before they are implemented.

In August, Chief William Bratton said he did not believe past drug 
use and poor credit histories should immediately disqualify anyone 
from joining the department. He said he wanted the LAPD's drug-use 
guidelines to be similar to those at the FBI, which reportedly allows 
a candidate to use marijuana 15 times in their past and more serious 
illegal drugs, including steroids, five times.

Last month at a Police Commission hearing, a city Personnel 
Department official said the hiring policy changes had already been 

"I was shocked," Parks said. He said when Bratton made his 
announcement, several council members stated they wanted to review any changes.

He said that in every significant scandal in recent LAPD history -- 
including the corruption uncovered in the late 1990s in the Rampart 
Division and the Rodney King beating -- the department's hiring 
standards came into question in follow-up reports.

"We have reams of paper ... stating that the erosion of background 
standards comes back to haunt the city," he said.

Parks said he was particularly concerned about the relaxing of 
standards in addressing "hard drugs," saying that in the 1990s the 
City Council twice took positions that sided against loosening 
department policy.

The drug standards issue came up Monday during a council Public 
Safety Committee hearing on police recruitment, one of Bratton's top 
priorities. LAPD officials said it takes roughly 800 applicants to 
produce a class of 60 officers.

At the hearing, Personnel Department and LAPD officials said hiring 
standards are still tough, but the changes are designed to look at 
the "whole person."

"We're trying to ... look at the individual, not put an arbitrary 
number on any particular thing and say if this happens five times you 
can't come in," LAPD Cmdr. Kenneth Garner said.

"There are some drugs if you use, you're not going to be a Los 
Angeles police officer," he added. "Other times we're looking at the 
frequency of different drugs and how recent (the drug use) is."

Officials would not specifically state what the drug use standards 
are for recruits, but Garner said FBI guidelines are more liberal 
than LAPD requirements.

After the hearing, Phyllis Lynes, an assistant general manager for 
the Personnel Department, said the LAPD's hiring standards are as 
rigid as any in the nation and a significant percentage of candidates 
are dropped after taking a polygraph test.

"You have to show you're responsible, reliable and have a sense of 
achievement," she said. "You have to demonstrate all kinds of things 
to overcome any black mark against you."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman