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LAPD disputes ACLU racial profiling report

January 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The Los Angeles Police Department rejects allegations that its officers frequently discriminate against African-Americans and Latinos. The ACLU report claims blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to be stopped, searched, and arrested. The question: Is there racial profiling in the Los Angeles Police Department? Are you more likely to be pulled over and arrested if you're a minority? According to a report commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the answer is yes. The LAPD denies there is institutional racism in the department.

The report studied 800,000 incidents during a 12-month period from 2003 to 2004. It found that blacks in Los Angeles are three times more likely to be stopped than whites. Latinos were also stopped more often.

"African-Americans and Latinos in Los Angeles are over-stopped, over-frisked, over-searched, over-arrested, over-sighted by police," said Peter Bibring, attorney with ACLU of Southern California.

The ACLU presented the report to the police commission Tuesday. The LAPD acknowledges there are some incidents, but maintains there is no consistent pattern in the department.

"The report prepared by Professor [Ian] Ayres I find of no value," said LAPD Chief William Bratton. "That basically advanced the proposition that I don't know if he's ever written a report in which he did not find bias. That's the business he's in."

At Tuesday's hearing several people spoke, including Reverend Eric Lee, who said he was pulled over by police coming from a bible study.

"They pulled their shotguns and held them at our heads until parents of the youth came out and said, 'What's going on?'," said Rev. Lee, Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "They then sit us on a curb, handcuffed, finding out that we indeed did come from a bible study."

The data in the report date back five years and some argue it's a different department even in that short time. The chief said the LAPD aggressively trains officers to eliminate any racial bias.

"This police department does not -- let me make this very clear -- does not engage in racial profiling," said Chief Bratton. "It emphatically has policies and procedures to ensure that is the case. We have one of the most ethnically diverse police departments in the United States."

The police commission wants to hear more about this issue and told LAPD officials to come back next month with more information.


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