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Feminist News


April-30-97

Feminist Majority Foundation and National Center For Women & Policing Call for Citizens' Commission to Oversee Independent Investigation of Gender Bias In LAPD

Department Plagued by Reports of Sexual Harassment and Threats Against Women Officers and Wifebeating Cover-up

Los Angeles -- At a press conference today the Feminist Majority Foundation and the National Center for Women & Policing, joined by City Council members Jackie Goldberg and Rita Walters, called for an independent investigation of gender bias within the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The call for an investigation follows recent revelations in the media of widespread, orchestrated harassment and intimidation of women officers and the Department's cover-up and failure to prosecute officers who engage in brutal wife-beating and family violence.
The Los Angeles Police Commission is expected to soon release a 250-page report on the Department's investigation of the Mark Fuhrman tapes. The tapes confirm the existence of a clandestine all-male organization within the LAPD called 'Men Against Women' (MAW), whose ultimate objective is to drive women from the force using harassment and intimidation. The organization, founded in the mid-1980's following a federal court order to hire more women officers, also used mock trials of male officers accused of "fraternizing" with women officers.

"Despite claims by some Department officials to the contrary, widespread sexual harassment and orchestrated intimidation and threats against women on the force remain a serious problem in the LAPD," said Chief (Ret.) Penny Harrington, Director of the National Center for Women & Policing. "Men and women LAPD officers alike report that MAW is active to this very day in the Department, its members engaging in campaigns of harassment, and then retaliating against women officers who complain about the harassment. The intimidation escalates until the word goes out not to give back-up cover to targeted women officers, endangering their lives," continued Harrington.

"The attitudes and activities of 'Men Against Women' followers in the Department are a danger to the citizens of Los Angeles and compromise the effectiveness of the LAPD," continued Harrington. "Research shows women officers are more skillful at de-escalating potentially violent situations than their male counterparts, and so MAW's efforts to drive women out only exacerbates the LAPD's excessive force problems," explained Harrington, "The Fuhrman tapes reveal just how aggressively women police officers are shunned for their more community-oriented policing skills and their refusal to go along with using excessive force: Fuhrman doesn't believe women make good cops because you've got to be able to shoot people, beat people beyond recognition ... [Women] don't pack those qualities.

Harrington took to task the Department's top command for their failure to act on the evidence gathered through repeated internal investigations of sexual harassment and intimidation. The soon-to-be-released Commission document is reported to characterize the internal LAPD investigation of MAW and sexual harassment within the Department as a 'whitewash.' Additionally, a second major scandal, exposed in a KCBS special report this week, showed that LAPD officers who engage in domestic violence are regularly exonerated or receive only minor suspensions, and are never prosecuted for their brutal crimes.

Harrington joined Katherine Spillar, the National Coordinator of the Feminist Majority Foundation, in calling for a dramatic increase in the budget and staff of the Inspector General's office, and the appointment of a Blue Ribbon Citizens' Commission to oversee a wide investigation of gender bias in the LAPD and recommend reforms.

"The prevailing attitude at the LAPD seems to be that it is acceptable to beat your wife, harass women co-workers and lie to cover it all up. Well, enough is enough. Now is the time to clean the Department from top to bottom," said Spillar. "We are calling for an investigation to look at sexual harassment, intimidation, discrimination and retaliat

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