By Hector Villagra, Executive Director, ACLU of Southern California
The consent decree secured by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the Justice Department accomplished its purpose by and large. This is no longer your father’s Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD has made serious culture changes under the direction of a wise and courageous federal judge, the Los Angeles Police Commission, and most of all, communities of color throughout Los Angeles who insisted that the department respect the rights and dignity of all its residents. We commend the stewardship of former Chief Bill Bratton, current Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
However, the significant and persistent racial disparities in policing continue to raise grave concerns that African Americans and Latinos in Los Angeles are over-stopped, over-frisked, over-searched and over-arrested. The LAPD has been unwilling to acknowledge what the numbers say and what too many Los Angelenos know from painful personal experience. The LAPD’s treatment of homeless people also raises serious concerns. The LAPD should do all it can to avoid arresting people whose only offense is having no place to live other than the streets. Enforcement against them is unfair and simply increases the overcrowding in our jails.
The ACLU will remain vigilant to ensure that the LAPD does not revert to its former ways, and the ACLU will work to ensure, through advocacy and, if necessary litigation, that the LAPD continues to reform itself.