LAPD's hiring process under fire, department accused of lowering standards

Los Angeles Police Department officers, Los Angeles City personnel and people directly involved in the LAPD recruiting and hiring process are going public for the first time with their concerns. 

"I have nothing to gain from this, but it's the right thing to do," says James Williams, who supervised LAPD Police Background Investigations for 20 years. 

Williams retired a year ago. He says after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, followed by massive protests across the country and anti-police sentiment, the LAPD began changing its recruiting process. 

"We were given direction to focus more on diversity candidates, which we always have; regardless of the candidate, the good ones always float to the top," Williams said. 

But if top-tier candidates were not from a specific minority group, Williams alleges, "They didn't want them, so they sat on the shelf."

Other LAPD sources who asked FOX 11 to protect their identities for fear of retaliation corroborated Williams' allegations. 

"I myself am a minority, and I completely believe in diversity in the department because that's what makes Los Angeles a great city, but we need to hire good, qualified candidates that can do the job," one source said.

"A lot of the people that are being hired right now should not be police officers," another said. 

"The LAPD started manipulating the standards and the guidelines, which was a major issue with me," Williams tells FOX 11.

POST, the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training, created the standards and guidelines. Candidates must complete the peace officer selection process, including a written exam, physical ability test and background investigation. 

All law enforcement agencies in California must abide by those guidelines if they want certification for their academies and officers.

"Well, they wanted to go below those. I can't do that! It's illegal. We're governed by POST standards – we're governed by government codes as well." 

But Williams said it didn't matter to the department. He and other sources say the LAPD is making it too easy to be an officer because of a staffing crisis.

"They're not waiting for the best possible candidate to come by; it almost feels like they don't have the time to do it; they want to meet the numbers now," one source said.

When asked how the standards have changed, one LAPD insider says, "The physical fitness qualifier; you're supposed to have at least a 50% to get into the academy. We're now hiring people with 40%, 30%, and – in some cases – lower than 10% physical scores." 

LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who agreed to a sit-down interview, says, "What they're doing is not helping. They're creating doubt in the public's mind."

Chief Moore says the LAPD is not lowering standards, but the hiring practices have evolved through the years. 

"So when you're eliminating people to be a member of the organization because you can't run a mile and a half in 12 minutes," he said. "Got to ask yourself when was the last time an officer ran a mile and a half, and understand if that is still relevant?"

Our sources say the written exam is much easier because it's now a multiple-choice test.

"The written exam; we've had that test for years, and since I've gotten there, they've eased up on the standards of the written exam," one source said. 

But Chief Moore explains why the written exam was changed. 

"We moved to a multiple-question test in place of a narrative because we saw that the narratives were judged subjectively and that they were not consistent as far as people who passed or who didn't pass," Moore said.

In the past, a background investigation revealing a candidate's bad credit or financial problems could have resulted in rejection. Not anymore. Williams, who used to be a cop for a different agency before becoming a background investigator & supervisor, says it's dangerous to hire people with money problems. 

"People that are in deep financial problems often are tempted by money. The temptations out there on patrol are vast. You may pull over a drug dealer with hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you hire somebody with no integrity, what do you think they're going to do, they're going to steal," says Williams.

Meanwhile, Chief Moore says, "I do worry about officers who fall prey to bribery. The reality is that unfortunately, this profession in this own department, in the past decades, has had those individuals with what, I guess those same critics would say, a more stringent standard. Well, if it was such a stringent standard, it was so great; how did those failures occur?"

Chief Michel Moore vehemently denies the allegations that recruiters are told to focus on specific minority candidates even if they aren't qualified. 

"We do not hire a person on the basis of their race or their gender, but at the same time, we are pursuing qualified applicants that are representative of the diversity of the city; that is fair, that is what I think the public wants and expects," he said.

While both sides have shared opposite views on the department's hiring practices, one source says, "It's going to be devastating if you lower the standards any more than they are right now, and who's going to suffer from that? I think primarily the community."

Chief Moore assures the public the LAPD is not hiring unqualified candidates. 

"I believe the recruits that we see today are better educated, better qualified than the prior generations. And that, at times, is hard for prior generations to appreciate or to acknowledge," he said.

The Acting Deputy Mayor of Communications for Karen Bass issued the following statement:

"There is no world in which Mayor Bass would ever support the lowering of standards for those who serve in LAPD. Throughout all City Departments, there are infuriatingly unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles that prevent hiring for vital positions -- including police officers -- and the Mayor has taken action to ensure that red tape does not hold LAPD back from keeping our City safe."