LAPD Provides Disappointing Response to Racial Profiling Report

January 14, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Los Angeles Police Department has provided a disappointing and inadequate response to a report that found racially biased policing in its ranks, a coalition of community groups told the Los Angeles Police Commission today.

The report, authored by Yale economist and law professor Ian Ayres, was released last fall by the ACLU of Southern California. The LAPD's long-awaited response – presented to the police commission today -- rejected a number of key recommendations made by Ayres, a renowned statistician who has authored several studies relating to issues of racially disparate treatment in a variety of areas.

"The response from the LAPD is profoundly disappointing," said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU/SC. "Professor Ayres has offered to work with the department to develop and refine efforts to identify racial profiling, and even to further analyze data on officer stops if the department makes that information public. But the department has simply refused to cooperate, and to date has shown no inclination to address the deficiencies identified in Professor Ayres' ground-breaking report."

The report showed that black and Hispanic residents are stopped, frisked, searched and arrested by LAPD officers far more frequently than white residents. These racial disparities aren't explained by differing crime rates in predominantly black or Latino neighborhoods, or the likelihood that a search of a person of color will yield evidence of a crime, the report concluded.

Today's response by the LAPD focused, among other things, on denying that there is any measurable racial bias among its officers, and was inaccurate and misleading about some of the report's conclusions, Ripston and other coalition leaders charged.

Ayres said that "the LAPD's response simply ignores the bulk of our analysis, including the most troubling evidence of racial disparity -- the disparities that occur, after the stop has been made, in officers' decisions to frisk, search and arrest." Although he has posted the data and his analyses on his Web site to enable other academics to review and challenge his findings, he noted that the LAPD's response did not undertake any criticisms of his work at a level consistent with research standards in the field. "The department emphasizes several recent changes to its training and procedures," Ayres said. "But the LAPD remains unwilling to release (or even to internally analyze) more recent data to test whether these changes have mitigated the racial disparities uncovered in the past."

Rev. Eric Lee, president/CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, commented: "The report released last fall showed irrefutably what many people in this city have long known to be true – that there is a racial element to the policing of the LAPD. That must end. But we won't see progress toward that goal until the LAPD shows a willingness to work with community leaders and with experts like Professor Ayres who can provide insight into how to end unjustifiable police treatment of people of color throughout this city."

Added Jorge-Mario Cabrera, director of education for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles: "When 1,200 claims of racial profiling are made by the Los Angeles community and not one is sustained by the LAPD, it raises grave concerns that our experience is not being taken into consideration by those charged with serving and protecting us. Our community deserves equal protection all the time, and we require assurances from the LAPD that it will work towards correcting behaviors that can further erode our trust in the men and women in blue."

Ayres' report, titled "A Study of Racially Disparate Outcomes in the Los Angeles Police Department," was released in October, and was based on a fresh analysis of the LAPD's own data. The LAPD had previously said that there was no consistent pattern of racial disparity in the policing across alI its divisions – a conclusion based on a study of the post-stop actions of its officers on 810,000 field data reports completed by LAPD officers nearly every time they stopped a vehicle or pedestrian between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2004.

The LAPD provided the data to the ACLU/SC, pursuant to a request under the California Public Records Act. At the request of the ACLU/SC, Ayres re-examined the data. The police commission subsequently requested the LAPD to respond to the conclusions and recommendations in Ayres' report.

Among the recommendations that the department rejected were to require officers to take a test of latent racial bias, developed by psychologists, and for the LAPD to analyze officers' stop data on a regular basis to identify problem officers or groups. The latter is the report's single most important recommendation, yet the LAPD has made no meaningful effort to develop a methodology for such an analysis, and has not responded to Ayres' offer to assemble a team of experts to design an approach, said Peter Bibring, staff attorney for the ACLU/SC.

"We will continue to press the LAPD to take these and other reasonable and effective steps to root out racially biased policing," Bibring said. "Whether conscious or not, racial bias in policing exists. It's important for the department to acknowledge that and develop procedures that will help to identify and eliminate it."

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