The Los Angeles Police Commission will continue to explore ways to reduce racial disparities in traffic stops, following a report that examined hundreds of thousands of police actions last year.
The commission also voted to add language to the officers’ field notebooks that requires them to state they are asking for consent to search someone’s vehicle and to clearly state that the driver has the right to refuse.
It also outlines when a search can be conducted without someone’s consent during situations perceived as dangerous by officers.
The report by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Office of the Inspector General, published late last month, found “racial disproportions in stops for every type of violation.”
Commissioners described the report as the genesis for creating policies that could reduce the number of stops for minor violations as well as altering the methods of “pretext stops” that are conducted based on suspicions.
“We’ll be rolling out something that talks about the basis for the stop, whether or not there was a search or getting people out of the car and the basis for (those actions),” said Lizabeth Rhodes, LAPD director for the Office of Constitutional Policing and Police, adding tha some of the proposed policy changes could be implemented by the start of 2021.
“Again, we’re committed to working with the Office of Operations and the Community Outreach and Development Division,” Rhodes said.
Commissioners said they will have Chief Michel Moore, the Los Angeles Police Protective League (the LAPD’s union) as well as the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) involved in developing the policies.
“We, the commission, must be better at reviewing and conducting oversight in the use of data and data like this, which is … required by the state law, but (this gives) us an opportunity to really address it,” Commission President Eileen Decker said.
Commissioners said they did have some concerns about the report’s data accuracy and wanted more reports on how new policies could be implemented.
The OIG review noted limitations, such as how the residential demographic data it used for the analysis doesn’t indicate the actual rate at which different racial groups commit crimes or the percentage of crimes that go unobserved by officers.
Rhodes said the LAPD has invested in a system that will analyze and correlate traffic stop data to make it more accessible to all of the LAPD’s 21 divisions.
“We’re not creating a new policy. All we’re doing is setting seats at the table,” Commissioner Steve Soboroff said. “And certainly the chief will be at the table, and he describes it as a roundtable, not as a table with a head. So I think that this is appropriate. It’s healthy, and it’s very difficult.”
The OIG report found people police believed were Black were overrepresented in these interactions across the city, while those they thought were white or Asian were “significantly underrepresented.”
The report focused on officer-initiated stops and also examined video from 190 incidents.
It found traffic stops of Whites (and some other groups) were most likely to be related to how the suspects were driving, while Black and Hispanic people were most likely to be stopped for having expired vehicle registration documents, or some other regulatory or equipment violation.
And it said racial disparities were most clear when it came to police units focused on “crime suppression,” such as those specifically set up to dismantle gangs. Similar to stops occurring in crime-ridden neighborhoods, those units issued citations less frequently.
Also, after being stopped, Black and Hispanic people were more likely to be asked to step out of their vehicle, to be searched or to have a Field Interview Report written about them.