Request for recruits was among the topics discussed at the recent African American Community Forum
Top staff of the Los Angeles Police Department made an earnest plea for help with increasing the number of Black law enforcement officers during the African American Community Forum recently hosted by the agency.
LAPD Chief of Police Michel Moore and senior Black police executives shared the recruitment message with faith leaders, social activists, and South L.A. residents attending the Zoom meeting on July 21. The gathering is part of the department’s ongoing effort to encourage and maintain communication with minority, faith-based and youth communities.
The Black community was well represented by clergy and lay people who have long histories of both working in concert with law enforcement and holding LAPD accountable for its treatment of African Americans. The participants included Pastor J. Edgar Boyd of First AME Church of Los Angeles, Pastor Shep Crawford of Experience Christian Ministries, Pastor James Thompson of Living Word Community Church, L.A. Civil and Human Rights Commissioner Kandee Lewis, Our Weekly Editor Lisa Fitch, Shari Foreman, James Williams III and the Rev. Oliver Buie of Holman United Methodist Church.
Regarding recruitment, Moore insisted, “If you have a qualified candidate, we are interested. Everyone will be treated fairly. There’s no secret code to be a member of this organization.” He also introduced Deputy Chief Alan Hamilton and Commanding Officer Aaron McCraney from the LAPD’s Recruitment and Employment Division.
“We are hiring and reaching out to the African American community because in the next few years, if we do not keep this pipeline open, our numbers in the department will continue to decrease,” said Hamilton, who added that LAPD has approximately 885 African American officers out of about 9,300 sworn members.
“We are looking to increase those numbers [to reach a] diversity of thought, ideas and perspectives. These are the intangibles [that come to light] when people of the community come into the department bringing a fresh set of eyes, a different viewpoint, a different cultural background. All of these will make for a better product from our department. Come and join this agency and make a difference,” Hamilton said.
McCraney noted, “LAPD has a commitment to hire from the African American community. More than ever, we need the help and participation of organizations in the African American community, and especially of the clergy, to help us move this agenda forward and get more African Americans in the Los Angeles Police Department.”
He also said that the starting pay for police officers is $70,000 per year and the benefits include healthcare and tuition reimbursement. In addition, candidates are offered mentorships with existing officers to aid recruits in completing the hiring and academy processes.
Moore also called on various staff to update attendees on some of the more pressing issues capturing LAPD’s attention and resources. Homicides and human trafficking were among those areas and Deputy Chief Regina Scott provided telling statistics that illuminated the policing challenges that officers face.
“Violent crime is up all over the nation and South Bureau is not immune to that. We had 79 homicides in just the South Bureau this year compared to 60 last year. Of the homicides, 62 were gang-related. We’ve made 109 arrests of homicide suspects and 83 are African American, 29 are Hispanic and nine were under the age of 17. Forty-three are between 18-to-49,” said Scott, who noted that the emotions and rumors triggered by social media are influencing contributors to the rising murder rates.
She said that human trafficking and prostitution have increased in the Figueroa corridor and is negatively impacting businesses in the area. LAPD is consulting with the Office of the City Attorney to institute programs to counter the negative effects as well as planning to partner with neighborhood nonprofits for assistance in wrap-around services to aid young people, particularly foster children ensnared in those activities.
“Our number one recruiters are other children in the foster system. It starts out with them talking to them (other foster youth) and saying there are people who care about you and we are family. They get with them and treat them wonderful. They buy them expensive things and it starts out with a small favor. From those favors, they find themselves in a system that they can’t get out. The key is trying to break that cycle,” Scott said.
“The department is looking to rescue these victims, not prosecute them. But, we do want to prosecute the perpetrators. These are sophisticated individuals who are raising thousands of dollars in the selling of people,” declared Moore.
Reports were also given on LAPD’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts by Commander Ruby Flores, and traffic safety by Deputy Chief Gerald Woodard and South Bureau Commanding Officer Curtis McIntyre.
The attendees included two African Americans who serve on the Police Commission – Vice President William Briggs, who practices law in the entertainment and sports sectors, and Commissioner Dale Bonner, executive chairman of Plenary Concessions, an investor and developer of public infrastructure. Both commissioners expressed their commitment to improving the department’s relationship with Blacks, immigrants, and people of color.
Briggs, who was born and raised in South Los Angeles, stressed, “I am quite familiar with the [South L.A.] area and extremely interested in how we get back the trust between members of the community and of our police department. I think that everyone recognizes that we want public safety, but when we don’t have trust in those that are providing the public safety, there’s a break. I want to learn how we help restore that [trust].”
Voicing similar comments, Bonner said, “In the three-and-one-half years that I’ve been on the Commission, I have been searching for the one or two things that will rebuild trust and help us all see a day when this tension between the police department and communities of color is not the dominant discussion. But, it is clear that there is no one easy solution.
“It’s a lot of complicated issues that will require a lot of thought and input. That’s why it’s so important to engage with you – and many others who are not here – in these types of conversations. I appreciate the opportunity to hear what’s going on in the community and how we can work together to make things better,” he said.
Working together with all ethnicities and groups is Chief Moore’s goal in holding forums, according to Senior Lead Officer and African American Community liaison, Kathy Williams, who noted that LAPD liaisons are designated for the clergy, LGBTQ, Latino, Asian Pacific, Muslim, Jewish, and youth communities and Moore meets twice a year with each group.
“Chief Moore does a lot of outreach. We try to reach as many community members as we can and not just through the forums, but also by having the Chief speak at churches, activities sponsored by community groups, and at prevention and intervention events,” Williams said.
“We like to hear everyone’s concerns and issues, so we can understand the things we need to do in our community to make it better and we can work together in partnership.”