LAPD REPORT RECOMMENDS AGE LIMIT.
Old rookies just haven't made the grade in the LAPD.
That's the conclusion of a new Los Angeles Police Department report that recommends ending the five-year experiment into hiring officers as old as 65.
In a report to be considered Tuesday by the Police Commission, former Interim Chief Bayan Lewis and LAPD personnel officials recommend that the department should reinstate the rule that police recruits may be no older than 35.
The results of the age experiment, the report said, showed that the attrition rate for entry-level officers over 34 years old was twice the level for younger officers.
``The department must be reasonably assured that the public safety will not be jeopardized by the individual's physical degeneration in the course of a reasonable career,'' said the report, prepared by the LAPD's Personnel Division and sent by Lewis to the commission.
``The maximum age limit will allow the department to hire those individuals who are still physically capable of performing the duties of a police officer and who will provide the department with years of service,'' the report said.
Until 1992, the LAPD required recruits to be younger than 35 years old, but the city dropped the rule that year because of concern that it violated federal age-discrimination laws.
However, Lewis noted that President Clinton last year signed into law an exemption to the age-discrimination laws for fire and police departments, so imposing a maximum age limit is legal.
Police Commissioner Dean Hansell said he is still undecided on the proposal but said it seems setting the age limit at 35 is somewhat arbitrary.
Hansell said the department already has physical fitness standards that officers must meet to graduate from the Police Academy, so it could be argued that a 45-year-old recruit who meets the physical standards should be allowed.
``My gut level says let's not have an age limit, but I want to hear their justification,'' Hansell said. ``It may be the cost aspect that is what prompted this move.''
The report cites the $100,000 cost of training each recruit as an investment that must be protected. ``When a police officer candidate does not continue to work for the department, the financial loss to the city is substantial,'' it said.
The recommendation to reinstate the limit was seen by some officers Friday as a welcome return to the higher standards applied to police recruits in days past.
``For the most part, police work is a younger person-type job,'' said Dave Hepburn, president of the police union. ``It's a job where you are going to have to rely on physical fitness.''
With the department spending $100,000 to train each recruit, Hepburn said the LAPD isn't likely to get as much bang for its training buck by hiring older recruits. A 21-year-old recruit might work for 30 or 40 years, while a 50- or 60-year-old recruit may work less than half the time.
``We've hired a lot of people in their 50s. How long are they going to stick around on the job? They are not going to want to stay around 20 years,'' Hepburn said.
The study found that 238 of the 3,708 police recruits hired during the six years through 1996 were 35 or older.
The attrition rate for the 35-and-older recruits was 32 percent during the study period, compared with a 16 percent attrition rate for recruits who were 34 and younger.
The attrition rate rose as the age increased so that seven of the 18 recruits who were 40 and older resigned or were terminated, for a 39 percent attrition rate.
Sgt. Arthur Miller of the Employee Opportunity and Development Division said in the report that older recruits who are embarking on second careers ``have difficulty acclimating to a new environment'' and difficulty adjusting to training officers who are much younger.
Lt. Luther Lutz of the Medical Liaison Section, also said the recuperation period for older officers who are injured is likely longer than for younger officers, but said no studies have been done on injury rates.