LOS ANGELES - The city of Los Angeles is on the cusp of commissioning a report to analyze data collected each time an officer stops a pedestrian or searches a driver to help determine whether the LAPD engages in racial profiling. But the report will not look at the race or ethnicity of motorists who are stopped and therefore it will not consider the phenomenon of "Driving While Black/Brown."
An analysis of pedestrian stops cannot substitute for motor vehicle stops since officers stop motorists far more often than pedestrians and the perception of racial profiling is most often linked to harassing stops of minority drivers. Unless it changes the methodology for analysis, the report could be meaningless and may not help allay community concerns, especially among African Americans and Latinos, the ACLU of Southern California says.
"A string of events has raised the tide of concern and opposition about police practices in Los Angeles, but it comes at a time when the police department claims to be looking internally at its practices," said Ricardo Garcia, criminal justice director at the ACLU of Southern California. "The LAPD must use the opportunity not to patronize the community, but to begin a cultural shift on the force."
Community leaders are calling on the city to use the analysis to make changes in the attitude and culture of the LAPD.
"Until the community is involved, the report will only go so far in suggesting substantive redress," said Rev. Lewis Logan, pastor at Bethel AME in South Los Angeles. "The community must be vigilant and take advantage of the moment in order to both expose this egregious practice and effect systemic change. We cannot look at ourselves as victims but must seize the opportunity to empower ourselves through sustained and strategic direct action."
In 2000 the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Los Angeles entered into a binding Civil Rights Consent Decree that requires collection of data each time a police officer stops someone in the city. U.S. District Court Judge Gary A. Feess who is overseeing the consent decree ordered the data must be analyzed. The LAPD-contracted Analysis Group, a relatively inexperienced firm in analyzing police data, plans to release a report on its findings in about six months. However, flawed methodology threatens to render the study meaningless.
The Analysis Group's proposal for the pending racial profiling study omits analysis of stops of motorists and looks at pedestrian stops instead. The ACLU of Southern California is calling for a revised methodology that:
'Does not use the analysis of pedestrian stops as a substitute for automobile stops. Data related to motor vehicle stops will better illustrate how officers interact with the community.
'First compiles general demographics about drivers in Los Angeles.
'Does not rely heavily on comparing officers in the analysis of the data. Comparing officers will not shed any light on the institutional practices.