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LAPD restricted on Skid Row searches

December 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
It will be tougher for the LAPD to conduct searches of people on Skid Row after the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California reached a settlement agreement on Thursday with the city.The settlement makes it mandatory for police to undergo special training, and officers face new restrictions on how they can search people and run parole checks on Skid Row.

The ACLU sued LAPD in 2003, claiming officers were unconstitutionally searching people or running criminal checks without probably cause.

"They'd ask them for their ID, if the person said, 'No,' they would take them into custody," said attorney Carol Sobel, who worked with the ACLU on the case.

The ACLU won a temporary injunction against the Police Department in 2003 that was meant to halt such practices, and it filed for an extension in 2006 after a crackdown at Skid Row saw an increased police presence.

The LAPD does not acknowledge any wrongdoing, city attorney spokesman Nick Velasquez said.

Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League union, said officers in Skid Row have always been "sensitive to the special needs and conditions of the people who live in the community."

The so-called Safer Cities Initiative put 50 extra patrol officers and 24 narcotics officers on the streets to target drug dealers and enforce laws that forbid jaywalking and camping, sitting or sleeping on sidewalks.

The Safer Cities Initiative has seen a spike in the number of citations for minor violations. Reported crime in the area has dropped.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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