Police Chief Says Diverse Applicant Pool For New Cops Can’t Pass Background Checks



SAN LEANDRO | Nov. 30, 2011 | Change at the San Leandro Police Department comes at a torpid pace, it seems, especially when it comes to transforming the makeup of the police force to more closely match the faces of one of the most diverse cities in the country.

Just how the police department and its chief, Sandra Spagnoli, would accomplish this became less clear Monday night.

Spagnoli told the council racial and gender considerations are not used in the promotion process. Of the department’s 91 officers, only 7 are black and a mere 4 are women.

In a response to a query from San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy over efforts to encourage blacks and women to apply for positons on the force, Spagnoli said there were none and questioned the exact definition of what “diversity” actually means.

Cassidy claimed five of the last seven recent new hires were white males.

“That doesn’t sound correct,” said Spagnoli. “You have to remember diversity comes from a variety of different experiences that people bring to the table.” She referenced a recent new hire who was born and raised in the city’s Washington Manor neighborhood near the Highway 238 interchange.

“He happens to be a white male with a four-year education and he has experience as a police officer. So when you talk about diversity whether it is ethnic diversity or gender diversity, it’s really great when you think someone in this community wants to serve this community after growing up in this community.”

Cassidy responded by saying, “We do have a desire to have a police force that is reflective in gender and race of our community and not be dramatically different.” He suggested funneling a more diverse pool of possible candidates through the police academy, but she disagreed.

“I think you’re making the assumption that your diversity pool is going to increase if you have a pool of people who don’t have experience versus having experience,” Spagnoli said.

“We had a lot diversity in the applicant process, unfortunately, the most diverse candidates failed the background process and wouldn’t be working here.”

Changes to the way officers are chosen for promotion were also discussed during Monday’s work session. Spagnoli said outside consultants would aid in choosing applicants along with a battery of other tests, including a written and oral exam. “The reason why you use a variety of different test method is so one person can’t have a great test day.”

The last comment runs close to matching statements made by numerous officers in recently disclosed confidential reports detailing the Dewayne Stancill scandal. Disgruntled officers claimed the previous promotion board unfairly favored some candidates, which led to low morale within its ranks.

Others voiced a sense that Stancill who was called “stupid” by some in the department, somehow had a lucky day in testing so high on the controversial promotional test for sergeant in 2007.

CORRECTION & NOTE: A correction was made to a caption posted earlier this morning that read despite more than a quarter of the population in San Leandro is Asian, the group is unrepresented on the force. That is clearly an error. There are nine, according to a memo by city staff last August. This article is about comments made during last Monday’s work session that featured most of the SLPD’s top brass and should have referred to the lack of Asians among that group.

The fact remains the racial and gender makeup of the PD is severely out of whack. Here is the department’s demographics in contrast to the latest 2010 Census:

 ______________#Ofcs….PCT…|.Census
Whites………60…65.9%..|..37.6%
Asians……….9….9.9%..|..29.7%
Hispanic……..7….7.7%..|..27.4%
Black………..4….4.4%..|..12.3%
Other……….11…12.0%..|..13.3%
Source: SLPD, U.S. Census

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