LAPD wants to open SWAT to women

By Richard Winton
The Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The union representing the Los Angeles Police Department's 9,300 rank-and-file officers filed an unfair labor practices claim Friday that seeks to overturn recent changes in the SWAT team's rigorous selection process — changes that were partly intended to open the elite unit to female officers.

The claim is the latest challenge to Chief William J. Bratton's efforts to expand the SWAT selection process.

Last week The Times obtained a year-old confidential report from a panel that recommended that the department make the Special Weapons and Tactics Team more accessible to women.

No woman has succeeded in passing SWAT's grueling physical test since its formation in 1971.

The advisory panel was formed by Bratton to conduct a sweeping review of SWAT after a chaotic 2005 operation in Watts, when officers inadvertently killed a 19-month-old girl during a shootout with her deranged father -- the only time SWAT has killed a hostage.

In the wake of the panel's advice, the Los Angeles Police Protective League alleges that the department unilaterally changed the SWAT team selection process on Feb. 1 without consulting with the union as is required by city law.

The union says the department eliminated the requirement that applicants be assigned to Metropolitan Division for more than a year to be eligible for SWAT and also did away with a five-day test implemented in 1988.

The test is based on an FBI hostage rescue selection process.

"At the very least, the process would have benefited from the input of the officers who risk their lives on the SWAT front lines," said Tim Sands, league president.

The union alleges that the changes affect officers' working conditions and will "create risk to their safety and that of members of the community."

The protective league is seeking a cease and desist order from city's employee relations board.

The new criteria have angered SWAT officers, who say they are concerned that they won't properly gauge an applicant's ability to handle the stress of the job, especially in light of the recent killing of SWAT Officer Randy Simmons.

According to several officers briefed on the new admissions standards, much of the shooting simulations and arduous obstacle courses used for the last decade are being eliminated.

Copyright 2008 The Los Angeles Times

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