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LAPD insists it's tough when investigating racial profiling by officers

December 7, 2010 |  7:46 am

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Responding to criticism from the U.S. Justice Department, the watchdog for the Los Angeles Police Commission, as well as LAPD officials, this week largely defended the handling of racial profiling investigations.

Nicole Bershon, the Police Commission's inspector general, is scheduled to present the civilian oversight panel Tuesday with a lengthy report that evaluates how a newly formed LAPD unit investigates claims of racial profiling against officers. The review follows a warning last month from Justice Department officials to Bershon and the LAPD that both were falling short in addressing racial profiling complaints.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is expected to present a written response to Bershon's report to the commission Tuesday.

After completing sweeping reforms ordered by federal officials, the LAPD still remains under federal supervision on a handful of issues, including racial profiling, and must persuade the Justice Department that it can adequately police itself before federal scrutiny can be withdrawn.

Within the LAPD, racial profiling is termed "biased policing." Complaints typically occur after a traffic or pedestrian stop, when the officer is accused of targeting a person solely because of his or her race, ethnicity, religious garb or some other form of outward appearance. About 250 complaints are filed each year — a small fraction of the tens of thousands of stops that are made. Nonetheless, the LAPD has struggled to shake a perception of bias, especially among black and Latino men, that stems from past decades of abuse.

Another complication is the difficulty of investigating profiling complaints. For several years, no LAPD officer has been found guilty of a profiling charge. LAPD officials have said it is nearly impossible to determine whether an officer was motivated by bias. Commissioners have pushed them to address the issue more aggressively.

Read the full story here.

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--Joel Rubin

Credit: Los Angeles Times

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