The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to take a look at whether Los Angeles County’s law enforcement agencies can do more to mitigate implicit racial bias.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended the review of anti-bias programs and focused on training for sheriff’s cadets. However, he and the board also requested information from the Probation Department, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender, Superior Court and Fire Department.
“This is an unprecedented moment in the history of our nation,” Ridley-Thomas said. He later added, “there is no denying that there is a crisis of confidence” in law enforcement.
In his motion, Ridley-Thomas pointed out that training criteria and certification for law enforcement professionals in California prohibits racial profiling, but said less overt bias can be equally damaging.
One advocate was more direct. “We must challenge the insidious idea that ‘criminals’ and ‘dangerous’ are synonymous with Black people and people of color,” said Alex Johnson of the Children’s Defense Fund-California.
A spokewoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said even unconscious bias can lead to tragic outcomes.
“We know that racial disparity in everyday stops also means racial disparity in the number of incidents that escalate from the stop to a shooting or other use of force,” the ACLU’s Catherine Wagner told the board.
The supervisors asked departments to report back in 45 days on training related to implicit bias. A second report on national best practices is expected in three months.
The recommended review comes after a year of contentious altercations between activist groups and law enforcement across the nation following a number of officer-involved-shootings of unarmed Black persons.