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Justice Dept. warns LAPD over racial profiling

November 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Is the LAPD doing enough to investigate accusations of racial profiling on the part of officers? The federal government doesn't think so, but LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is defending his department.The Los Angeles Police Department is being sharply criticized for not doing enough to stop biased policing or racial profiling. The condemnation comes from the U.S. Department of Justice. The LAPD is accused of just going through the motions during racial-profiling investigations. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck strongly disagrees with the allegations.

Beck talked about good news at Terminal Island: The first of more than 8,000 confiscated weapons were being destroyed, many of them used in crimes.

The bad news came from the Justice Department criticism of how police handle racial profiling, now called "biased policing" by the LAPD: Harassing or stopping someone on the basis of their skin color or the way they dress. The feds have expressed concern about the way LAPD investigates allegations of biased policing.

"The investigations that they looked at are very old," said Beck. "They predate many protocols that have been put into place now to make sure these investigations are done as absolutely thoroughly and as completely we can possibly do them."

Racial profiling long has been a sensitive issue for the LAPD. It was something the Justice Department demanded be addressed in a consent decree, which followed the Rampart corruption scandal. The consent decree has been lifted. But sweeping reforms were demanded and the Justice Department oversight continued.

Recently two officers were recorded talking about racial-profiling complaints regarding a traffic stop. "So what?" said one of them. The other said he couldn't do his job without racially profiling.

"It's absolutely inappropriate for the sergeant to be talking to officers about an open personnel complaint, so we're looking at it," said Beck.

There are hundreds of profiling complaints each year, usually after something like a traffic stop. Complaints don't necessarily rise to fact. But there has been a perception among some that police pull people over or stop them because of their race or appearance.

"This is an issue that may never completely go away, but it is an issue that we have made great progress on, and that I am confident we will make further progress on," said Beck.

The police inspector general is expected to release a report soon that reviews some racial-profiling investigations. The LAPD formed a team of special investigators to look at complaints. Chief Beck was expected to address the profiling issue at a news conference Tuesday.


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