Police Explorer ties to Scouts assailed
By Rachel Uranga, Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 11/20/2007 09:21:02 PM PST
From The Los Angeles Daily News
The Los Angeles Police Department's largest youth program came under fire Tuesday for its links to the Boy Scouts of America, which condemns homosexuality, and the department is looking into possible replacements.
Every year, hundreds of youths participate in the department's Explorer program in an effort the LAPD sees as key to recruiting.
But the program was assailed by departing and openly gay Los Angeles Police Commissioner Shelley Freeman and other commissioners for its ties to the Scouts.
"This is a very disturbing relationship," Freeman said during a commission meeting Tuesday.
The administration of the 16-week program that recently graduated 176 youths through the Los Angeles Police Academy is handled by Learning for Life, an Irving, Texas, company that provides programs nationwide on character development and career education for young people.
The company broke with the Boy Scouts of America more than a decade ago, said Greg Salce, director of its Los Angeles area chapter, but the two organizations still share several national board members and offices in Texas.
"You can easily see the connection between these organizations ... on the Internet," Freeman said, pointing to publicly available tax forms that show the two share the same address.
Anthony Pacheco, president of the five-member citizens commission that oversees the LAPD, ordered the department to look into options to replace Learning for Life and asked the LAPD to demonstrate that the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy does not seep into the Explorer program.
"This is an issue that's of paramount importance to the commission," he said.
LAPD Cmdr. Kirk Albanese told the commission Tuesday that the Explorer program does not condone the anti-homosexual beliefs of the Scouts.
"Any discrimination, any lack of values as it relates to the Explorers, is not to be tolerated by the department," he said. "They do not get exposed to anything that the Boy Scouts of America teach."
Even as commissioners asked for more answers to the Explorers' administrative links to the Scouts, they praised the program for providing teens with an introduction into community service.
"I am torn because I am the beneficiary of this program," Commissioner Alan Skobin said. "It's a program of real value, but we need to determine what the linkage is to Learning for Life."
While the LAPD runs the Explorer program, which receives thousands in donations from boosters and philanthropic groups per year, Learning for Life provides the administrative support.
"I am proud to be affiliated with the membership (of Boy Scouts of America)," Salce said. "But we don't discriminate. That is not what we do."
About 40 officers supervise LAPD Explorers and say the LAPD is the sole guiding influence.
According to a commission report in 2002, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo in a letter to Chief William Bratton clarified that the only association with Learning for Life and the department is an $8 fee per Explorer to cover insurance. He also noted that Learning for Life had a nondiscriminatory policy consistent with the LAPD's. The independent nonprofit organization has similar agreements with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District, Salce said.
In 2000, the Los Angeles City Council cut the Boy Scouts from the Explorer program and blocked troops from using city property for free. The effort came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the group could legally ban the hiring or inclusion of Scouts on the basis of religion and sexual orientation.
Article on the LA PD, which has an openly gay police commissioner.