Despite a 15-year-old consent decree requiring the promotion of more minorities to the upper ranks of the LAPD, some officer groups say the command staff still lacks diversity, which fans tensions with Los Angeles’ various communities. Racial and ethnic minorities compose 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 for the deployment period that ended Jan. 6. 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 African-Americans – 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 African-American officers. “Race is an issue. You feel comfortable with people who look like you.” Half of the 22 newly promoted captains are Latino or black. “Have we gotten there yet? Absolutely not,” said Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, the department’s highest-ranking African-American 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. “The message has been that this is a department being run by white males,” he said. “We want females of color in positions in the command staff. We want some promotions. We want to be a part of the command staff.” 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. Placencia said that in a city as diverse as Los Angeles, it’s important to have minorities in positions of authority. “A lot of people in the community, they look at who is running the ship,” Placencia said. “People are saying, `How do they know how I feel? Do they have family down here?”‘ 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. “The Los Angeles Police Department is one of the most ethnically diverse police departments in the nation,” said spokesman Lt. Paul Vernon. “It’s very much a mirror of the community it serves and it’s important for its credibility among the public.” But among veteran officers, there remains frustration at a perceived glass ceiling. Both Cato and Placencia note that the department still has failed to comply fully with provisions of a 1992 consent decree that was supposed to end this year, but was extended to 2009. It was established after minority officers complained they were denied raises and promotions. Known as Hunter-La Ley, the decree requires the department to use “good faith” efforts to promote minority officers into coveted positions, from top-ranking police officer slots to lieutenant. LAPD’s own statistics show they are in 67 percent compliance with the decree. But among African-American officers, they are out of compliance in five of the nine positions, including two detective slots, through January. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents more than 9,000 officers, declined to comment. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the city’s first Latino mayor in more than a century, leads one of the most diverse cities in the world. He wants its Police Department to reflect that. “He is confident that Chief Bratton and the command staff of the LAPD share this goal,” spokesman Matt Szabo said, “and are working to build a force that reflects the community it serves.” [email protected] (818) 713-3741 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! 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. Officials 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,” Bratton said, “but we are progressing very well.” During Bratton’s five years as chief, he’s promoted an African-American to head the elite Robbery-Homicide Division. Two of his three hand-picked assistant chiefs are minorities – one female, the other black – and two of nine deputy chiefs are Latino.