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Minister claims racial profiling by police

March 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Racial profiling charges are being leveled against a local police department after an African American minister was allegedly harassed by officers."It's a clear pattern of racial harassment, and it must end and it must end now," said the Rev. Robert Taylor.

Civil rights activists are demanding an investigation of the racial profiling allegations and police treatment of Taylor that occurred in the city of Torrance.

This all stems specifically from a traffic stop in February, but a group of civil rights leaders say this is a much larger issue in Torrance.

The police department says they will investigate the allegations but say that the officers in this particular case did nothing wrong.

Torrance police officers stopped Taylor on Feb. 4. The minister and Torrance resident was picking up his daughter from school.

"At that time, I was profiled. I was searched with pictures taken of me in the middle of the street in front of my neighbors and my neighborhood," described Taylor.

Taylor says the stop in February was illegal and unwarranted, and he says it's the third time that he's been stopped by police in Torrance.

"Every law abiding citizen has the right to visit the city of Torrance whether they live there, shop or go to the movies without being stopped and profiled because of their ethnicity or their background," Taylor said.

Torrance police would not agree to an on-camera interview, but they did respond to the allegations in a written statement.

A spokesperson for the department stated that crime in Torrance has been on the rise and that officers have responded accordingly. In the case of Taylor, the department said, "Our contact with Mr. Taylor revolves around a series of crimes that have been occurring in the city of Torrance. Mr. Taylor was stopped based on reasonable suspicion as his vehicle matched previous witness statements and suspect descriptions."

"The city of Torrance has been put on notice many, many times about ending the practice of racial profiling yet it still continues," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable.

But at a news conference in Inglewood Wednesday morning, local civil rights advocates said the issue of racial profiling in Torrance goes beyond this one incident.

"I have too many stories of young, African American men that can't seem to transcend pass that community without some kind of form of harassment," said Lita Herron of the Youth Advocacy Coalition.

Taylor has filed a formal complaint against the police department. He's asked for a formal apology from the mayor and the police chief. If he doesn't get it by Thursday, civil rights advocates said that they will call for a federal investigation.