LAPD officers more likely to stop, search and arrest minorities than whites, report says

The report by a Yale professor also found that LAPD officers were less likely to find weapons or drugs on blacks or Latinos than whites when they frisked them or subjected them to consensual searches.
By Andrew Blankstein
October 21, 2008
Los Angeles police officers are far more likely to stop, search and arrest minorities than they are whites — even after statistics were adjusted for high- and low-crime areas — according to a nongovernmental report released Monday.

The report by Yale Law School professor Ian Ayres for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California found that once stopped, African Americans were 29% more likely to be arrested than whites. Latinos were 32% more likely to be arrested in an identical category.

The percentages were far higher when minorities were stopped on the street or ordered out of their vehicles (blacks 166% and Latinos 132% more often than whites), frisked (blacks 127% and Latinos 43% more often than whites) or subject to nonconsensual searches (blacks 81% and Latinos 77% more often than whites).

At the same time, the report found that LAPD officers were less likely to find weapons or drugs on blacks or Latinos than whites when they frisked them or subjected them to consensual searches.

Police Chief William J. Bratton said he strongly disagreed with the report’s findings. Among other criticisms, Bratton said the study was flawed because it used data collected four years ago and did not reflect the department’s current practices.

Tim Sands, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, also took issue with the report, calling it a misguided attempt to read the minds of all officers during traffic stops.

“Dr. Ayres’ conclusions completely misread situations that are not nearly as black and white as he would want them to be,” Sands said. “It’s an exercise that might work on a spreadsheet at Yale but doesn’t work on the streets of Los Angeles.”

Union officials noted that the LAPD is a “majority minority” department, mirroring the demographic trends of Los Angeles, and that most officers work in pairs that represent more than one race.

They also pointed out that traffic stops often start at a distance, where race “is unknown to the officers.”

But the LAPD acknowledged it needed to adjust its policies after it was reported in The Times that the department found that none of the 320 complaints of racial profiling against its officers had merit. That marked six consecutive years that all allegations of racial profiling against LAPD officers had been dismissed.

The Los Angeles Police Commission voted in August to approve changes to training that would allow officers to be more sensitive to the issue and to more rigorously investigate complaints.

Commissioners also sought to redefine racial profiling to include claims based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

In the report, Ayres recommended that the inspector general be given oversight of investigations into racial profiling complaints. It also urged the LAPD to further overhaul the complaint process, as well as the implementation of an early-warning system to determine if officers were engaging in racial profiling.

The report found that complaints of racial profiling should trigger mandatory analysis of the patterns of the officer, unit or station so that supervisors could determine if extra training was necessary.

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