CULTURE PLAYS ROLE IN POLICE DIVERSITY ARMENIAN COMMUNITY MORE RECEPTIVE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT JOBS
Daily News (Los Angeles, CA) March 24, 2007 | EUGENE TONG\ Staff Writer GLENDALE — Tigran Topadzhikyan was born in Soviet-era Armenia, a repressive place where police officers didn’t have the best public image.
So it wasn’t entirely a surprise that his mother would frown on his decision to pursue a law enforcement career.
“My mom was a little apprehensive,” said Topadzhikyan, 31, who has served as a Glendale police officer for more than a decade. “She thinks it was dangerous even when I was an (police) Explorer. I was the first one in my family doing something like that. She supports me throughout now.” Topadzhikyan and Lola Abrahamian, also of Armenian descent, were among four officers recently promoted to sergeant — a boon to a department that has been trying to diversify its force to police an increasingly diverse city of 207,000. go to web site law enforcement jobs
According to city and census estimates, at least 30 percent of its residents are Armenian-American, 20 percent are Latino and 17 percent Asian-American.
But the current force of 253 officers — 6 percent are of Armenian descent, 23 percent Latino, 6 percent Asian-American and 60 percent white — still needs to catch up.
“Ideally, you want your police force to match the demographics of the city,” Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams said in a recent interview. “The reality is, that does not happen overnight.” The department has made progress — a decade ago, only three officers out of a force of 195 were Armenian-American, compared with seven in 2002 and 14 today.
The difficulty lies in finding enough recruits who meet department standards — and a cultural bias of some Armenian families who view law enforcement as a blue-collar profession to be avoided, Adams said.
“In order to match the demographics of the city, you certainly shouldn’t compromise your standards,” he said.
However, critics say change isn’t happening fast enough. Zanku Armenian of the Armenian National Committee said the department needs to step up recruitment while training current officers to better navigate the community.
“Just like you would have diversity training in a major corporation, there needs to be that kind of fundamental training in the department in order to evolve the culture,” said Armenian, a board member of the group’s western region chapter. “It takes a long time and very thoughtful effort.” Past friction between the department and some Armenians has fostered a measure of distrust. Stephan Partamian, an Armenian community activist, said police made it a point to pull over people of color in the 1980s, a time before the city’s demographics shifted.
“I think right now, it’s the best as ever,” said Partamian, who hosts a call-in television show. “Glendale police have done very well in adapting to the multicultural face of Glendale. … But every week, people call me to complain.” A lot of the calls are rooted in cultural misunderstanding, Partamian said. He recalls a run-in he had last year with an officer during a traffic stop: see here law enforcement jobs
“He came to the window. … In a very bad manner, he asked me something — then he spit on the floor, like something I had seen in a Western movie.
“I gave him my driver’s license, and he asked me how many times had I been arrested,” Partamian said. “I think it’s impolite.” Partamian said he took the issue to the City Council — three of the five councilmen are of Armenian descent — and met with Adams, who listened to his concerns.
“It turned out he was a rookie officer and had a habit of chewing tobacco.” That’s not to say would-be Armenian-American criminals won’t try to take advantage of a common ethnicity.
“Obviously, that’s happened,” said Abrahamian, a 10-year Glendale police veteran who was born in Iran and grew up in Los Angeles. “I’ve arrested somebody and they would say, ‘How is it? Can you let me go?’ “The answer is, no.” eugene.tong(at)dailynews.com (818) 546-3304 EUGENE TONG\ Staff Writer