Cindy Chang and Ben Poston, Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2019
Mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered Los Angeles police to scale back on vehicle stops in response to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times showing that an elite unit was pulling over a disproportionate number of African Americans.
In a written statement Wednesday, Garcetti said he is “deeply concerned” about The Times’ findings that Metropolitan Division officers stop black drivers at a rate more than five times their share of the population.
Pointing to decreases in homicides and violent crimes last year, Garcetti said that progress in fighting crime needs to come with gains in public trust. He said that reducing vehicle stops, which are perceived by some black residents as racially discriminatory, in favor of other policing techniques will help to build that trust.
On Tuesday, citing the Times investigation, civil rights and community groups called on Garcetti to withdraw Metro from South L.A.
The groups, which include the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Community Coalition, are also asking for more youth programs, mental health services and community policing.
Since Garcetti announced in 2015 that Metro would double in size to combat an increase in violent crime, the number of vehicle stops by its officers has skyrocketed from a few thousand to nearly 60,000 last year.
Garcetti and Moore have cited the Metro expansion as a key component in the city’s crime fighting strategy.
Unlike regular patrol officers, Metro crime suppression officers, who numbered about 270 last year, often spend their shifts on vehicle stops and other “proactive” policing tactics intended to root out violent criminals.
The Times investigation found that nearly half the drivers stopped by Metro were black. That has helped drive up the share of African Americans stopped by the LAPD overall from 21% to 28% since the Metro expansion, in a city that is 9% black.
In South L.A., which is 31% black, 65% of the drivers stopped by Metro were black.
The Times investigation did not prove that officers were engaging in racial profiling, but civil rights advocates have said the disparities are too great to fully be explained by other factors, such as the demographics of high-crime areas.