Lead Story West Edition

City to audit South L.A. police stops, mayor says

LOS ANGELES — Responding to a report that an elite Los Angeles Police Department division oversaw a surge in traffic stops involving African-American drivers, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Jan. 28 the Office of the Inspector General will conduct an audit of the unit.

“Angelenos deserve to understand the full picture when something outside the ordinary happens with any of our officers,” Garcetti said during a news conference at LAPD headquarters that was mostly dedicated to discussing 2018 crime statistics.

To combat a surge in violent crime, the LAPD doubled the size of its elite Metropolitan Division in 2015, creating special units to swarm crime hot spots, the Los Angeles Times reported last week.

By 2018, the number of drivers stopped by Metro Division officers was nearly 14 times greater than before the expansion, but nearly half the drivers stopped by Metro are black, which has helped drive up the share of African Americans stopped by the LAPD overall from 21 percent to 28 percent since the Metro expansion, in a city that is 9 percent black, according to the newspaper’s analysis.

Garcetti said that “we will get information instead of having speculation” via the audit. The Inspector General’s report will detail “the story and not just the statistics” about the division’s policies, the mayor said.

The data analyzed by The Times does not show why an individual officer pulled over a driver, and does not contain information about whether a motorist was searched, ticketed or arrested after the stop, nor can the data prove that Metro officers are engaged in racial profiling.

But some civil rights advocates say the racial disparities revealed by The Times’ analysis are too extreme to be explained by other factors and are troubling for a department that has spent the last quarter-century trying to repair its fractured relationship with the city’s black residents.

Connie Rice, a civil rights attorney who has worked closely with the LAPD on reforms in recent years, told the newspaper that the racial breakdown of Metro stops is “really off the chain.”

“This is stop-and-frisk in a car,” she said, referring to the New York Police Department’s controversial practice of patting down black and Latino pedestrians, which was sharply curtailed after a legal settlement.

Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson challenged Moore to prove that the LAPD’s gaping disparities in the number of black motorists stopped is not stop and frisk and racial profiling policing. Hutchinson called on Moore and LAPD officials to document why a motorist was pulled over, where the motorist was stopped and what action was taken after the stop such as a citation or arrest. He also called for public disclosure of the findings.

“The tremendous disparity in the number of African-American motorists stopped smacks of racial profiling and stop and frisk policing,” Hutchinson said. “The only way to prove it’s not is for documentation and public disclosure of why black motorists were stopped and what the result of the stop was. The LAPD has not provided this information and in the absence of that the stops must be considered unlawful stop and frisk policing.”

Garcetti said he had asked the Office of the Inspector General to conduct the audit following the report by The Times, but LAPD Chief Michel Moore added that the audit had been planned before the mayor asked for the probe.

Moore, an LAPD veteran who took over the department in June, said the Metro command staff “is very aware of the potential of people viewing them as over-policing or being overly harsh.” But he argued that intense policing is necessary in high-crime areas to keep residents safe.