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Stop Racial Profiling, Justice Department Warns LAPD

Stop Racial Profiling, Justice Department Warns LAPD

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a letter to the Los Angeles Police Department warning that it must take a stronger stance against racial profiling.

Recently a recorded conversation of two LAPD officers was released where they were being dismissive of complaints of racial profiling. One argued that he “couldn’t do [his] job without racially profiling.”

An independent study conducted by a Yale Law scholar in 2008 found that for every 10,000 residents in Los Angeles, about 3,400 more blacks are stopped than whites. Blacks are also 127 percent more likely to be frisked, 76 percent more likely to be searched and 29 percent more likely to be arrested than stopped whites. Still, they were 42.3 percent less likely to be found with weapons after being frisked, 25 percent less likely to be found with drugs and 33 percent less likely to be found with other contraband.

The LAPD dismissed the study, with Police Chief William J. Bratton commenting, “We live in an imperfect world. There are many issues and questions for which unfortunately there are no perfect answers. This issue of bias and profiling is one of those issues…This department does not engage in racial profiling.”

Besides the taped conversation, another incident cited by the Department of Justice is when the LAPD pulled a Latino man over for a broken brake light. The police asked the man if he was in a gang and checked to see if he had any outstanding warrants. “The investigating officer never asked the officers involved what prompted them to look behind them to actually observe a non-working brake light,” the Justice officials wrote. “The investigator accepted the officers’ single-word answers of ‘No’ to the question whether race was a factor in the stop.”

From 2001 to 2009, the LAPD was under a federal consent decree following the Rampart scandal, where over 70 officers were convicted of offenses including dealing narcotics, bank robbery, perjury and unprovoked beatings and shootings. The decree was lifted when the U.S. District Court judge found that the LAPD had completed most of its required reforms, but still asked federal authorities to monitor the department’s actions towards racial profiling.

The L.A. Times reports:

Police commissioners have grown frustrated with the department’s work on racial profiling. At a meeting earlier this month, the commission’s president, John Mack, and Commissioner Rob Saltzman questioned whether police officials were doing enough. They noted that no officer has been found guilty of racial profiling by an LAPD investigation for years, despite numerous complaints each year.

Police leaders have long argued that because racial profiling hinges on what an officer was thinking in the moment, it is all but impossible to determine if he or she racially profiled someone unless there is a confession….”I’ve heard many times that we can’t get inside an officer’s head, but somehow, some way, we need to figure out a way to get to the facts,” Mack said. “I’m not talking about a witch hunt, but I am talking about reaching a point where we can say with confidence that these claims have been very fairly and very thoroughly investigated.”

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76 comments

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5:50PM PST on Feb 17, 2011

Racial, ethnic and religious profiling needs to stop at all levels - local and federal - so DOJ needs to issue the warning to everyone and there should be stronger legal recourse for any individual who was arrested or otherwise unlawfully detained; I think a huge financial payout will deter profiling once and for all, Furthermore, "guilt by association" is never a good thing either.

7:20AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

Brian F says, "blacks and hispanics are more likely to get stopped by the police." Isn't that what racial profiling is? And if they are the ones who get stopped than of course they will be the criminals. You can't get charged if you're not stopped.

9:49AM PST on Feb 9, 2011

?!?

11:06PM PST on Feb 8, 2011

who voted no? well you obviously aren't being profiled.

4:39PM PST on Feb 8, 2011

Yes, it's true that we are in a heightened police state and blacks and hispanics are more likely to get stopped by police. But it's also true tha most gang bangers and street thugs who sell dope, rob people and murder people are blacks and hispanics. Go down to Watts LA, or the southside barrio in Los Angelos and see how long you live before you are robbed at gunpoint by gang bangers or killed. That doesn't mean that we steriotype all blacks and hispanics as gangbangers but the statistics clearly define that blacks and hispanics commit more crimes.

6:55PM PST on Dec 10, 2010

the justice department will not prosicute black on white crime. so the police have to be extra careful to catch them early.

3:29AM PST on Dec 9, 2010

I find most Police Departments are Corrupted..

12:43PM PST on Nov 28, 2010

My husband is black and I was once with him when Culver City poIice pulled us over. They said because the light for his license plate in the back was out. But then he started asking all sorts of obnoxious questions, have you even been arrested? Are you a gang member? Are you carrying a weapon? I mean all totally out of the blue. At one point, I couldn't take it anymore, with my hands still on the dashboard I lowered my head down so I could see the cop's face, he stopped his rant and said "hello ma'am". I bit my tongue. There was another "officer" on my side of the car. Both were young and white. It was out and out racial profiling and the guy was really trying to get my husband angry. He's in his 40 and doesn't look anything like a gang member. My husband told me that this was a common event for him and he's learned to stay calm. Driving while black in or near LA, there is definitely racial profiling going on.
As for Allen's comment "This goes back to the argument, why are there so many more blacks in jails," because the system itself is racist or you could say biased against the poor. An excellent example is the crack/cocaine laws. The poor folk get a stronger sentence for the weaker drug and the rich folk get off with a lighter sentence for the stronger drug. Also not just blacks, but other racial minorities that are poor don't have the same access to good lawyers.

10:51PM PST on Nov 27, 2010

Debrah said it all. Thanks

11:51AM PST on Nov 27, 2010

The Hispanic sheriff in Arizona had better not go to LA. He'd be shot so fast, he'd never be able to get to his ID.

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