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Why Did LAPD Need a Study to Tell Them Black People Don’t Trust Cops?

Image courtesy Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Image courtesy of Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

A report released Friday by the Los Angeles Police Department on biased policing found that the city, which houses the third-largest police department in the nation, dropped the ball in following up on allegations of unfair policing by its officers.

This is likely why the study also found a significant level of distrust for police among the city’s Black residents.

According to NPR, the report was requested by Los Angeles’s five-member police commission back in September after the department released records showing the LAPD failed to uphold any of the 97 allegations of racial profiling by police in the first half of 2016. Mayor Eric Garcetti asked that residents be permitted to review the report before the police commission met on Tuesday, the news site reports.

“While the department has significantly improved over the past decades, there is much work to be done to maintain and improve the level of public trust that is so essential for effective policing, especially with communities that have been subjected to historical discrimination and disadvantage,” read the report, titled “Prevention and Elimination of Biased Policing.”

“Accordingly, the Department is steadfastly committed to maintaining its reforms and expanding its efforts to promote mutual understanding and respect … and ensure lawful transparency and accountability while protecting the rights of all people,” it continued.

The report compared the LAPD to other departments in Baltimore, Dallas, Washington D.C., Seattle, San Francisco and New York among others and found that only three departments — Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle — had “confirmed procedures specifically used for biased policing investigations.” It also revealed that only three of the departments examined — San Jose, San Diego and Washington D.C. — had ever disciplined an officer accused of racial profiling.

Of the 1,254 bias complaints filed over the last four years, only two were upheld but later overturned, according to the study.

In addition to allegations of biased policing that weren’t upheld, report authors summarized the findings of a survey conducted earlier this year that asked roughly 2,000 residents about their fear of crime in the area, their trust (or mistrust) of police and if they were content with law enforcement services.

The survey found that the majority of people polled “strongly” or “mildly” approved of the LAPD’s work. However, the percentage of Black people who disapproved (roughly 32 percent) was much higher than that of white people who disapproved (14 percent.) Also, nearly 60 percent of Black respondents disagreed with the statement that LAPD cops “treat people of all races and ethnicity fairly.” Twice as many Blacks disagreed with the statement as whites, the report showed.

There’s a belief that much hasn’t changed within the LAPD since the brutal beating of Rodney King in 1991. Many Black residents also feel the department hasn’t done much to improve relations with the Black community over the past 25 years. So, why is the LAPD so surprised when a study like this comes out?

In an effort to begin taking effective action, the Los Angeles civilian police commission dedicated its entire weekly hearing to address the findings of the report, according to NPR. The public also was invited to voice its opinions on the study’s findings.

“These results are important to us,” said Police Chief Charlie Beck, who recommended that the study be replicated before major reforms are made in the department. “[I need] to see whether meetings like this, to see if programs such as community safety partnership … to see whether that makes a difference.”

“As a baseline, it’s hard to judge this because it’s the first of its kind,” he said.


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