LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — While conducting an investigation into hundreds of thousands of police actions throughout 2019, investigators have found racial disparities across a broad group of LAPD traffic stops, officials announced Tuesday.
A report by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Office of the Inspector General found “racial disproportions in stops for every type of violation.”
People that police identified as Black were overrepresented in these traffic stops across the city, while those who were identified as white or Asian were “significantly underrepresented,” the analysis reveals.
The report focused on officer-initiated stops and examined video from 190 incidents.
“Much of the overall disparity in stop frequency was driven by high rates of stops in areas that had both high levels of violent crime and comparatively high proportions of Black residents,” according to the report.
“However, even in these areas, Black residents were overrepresented in the frequency of stops, including stops for traffic violations and other minor crimes.”
Racial disparities were most clear when it came to police units focused on “crime suppression,” such as those units that are set up specifically to dismantle gangs.
The review noted some limitations, including how the residential demographic data it used for the analysis does not indicate the rate at which different racial groups commit crimes or the percentage of crimes that go unobserved by officers.
The report did find that traffic stops of people who are white 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 other regulatory/equipment violations.
After being stopped, Black and Hispanic people were also more likely to be asked to step out of their vehicle, be searched, or have a Field Interview Report written about them.
“In general, people identified as Black or Hispanic — and particularly Black or Hispanic males — were more likely to be the subject of all types of post-stop activity than were people identified as White or another race,” the report states.
The racial disparities in post-stop activity persisted even when looking at stops for the same type of violation.
“Racial differences persisted even for searches considered to be more discretionary, such as consensual searches or searches based on generalized officer safety concerns,” the report states. “In contrast, there was less disparity in searches designated as lower-discretion, such as those incident to an arrest, pursuant to a warrant, or in conjunction with the impounding of a vehicle.”
Searches involving Black and Hispanic people were also less likely to be associated with the recovery of illegal items than the searches involving white people.
For serious contraband, including firearms, around two out of every 100 searches turned one up, but this varied little by race. Black and Hispanic people were slightly more likely to be associated with the recovery of firearms than the searches of other groups of people.
The report came to the conclusion that some of the racial disparities “were the result of strategies designed to use these violations as a pretext to identify or suppress more serious crimes,” but it found they were actually “on balance, of limited effectiveness in identifying evidence of illegal firearms or other serious crimes.”
The LAPD said it will conduct a review of the report and its findings, as well as recommendations.
“As stated in the OIG report, racial disparities are not easily understood as the two most frequently identified comparisons of stops are inherently imperfect,” an LAPD statement said. “Additionally, while the report identified disparate impacts relative to the number of stops involving people of color, the report did not find disparate treatment of those individuals who were stopped. Officers generally did not know the race of the person prior to the stop and actions did not vary significantly by race.
“We are working closely with our Board of Police Commissioners and the Office of the Inspector General to identify methods to improve the accuracy of stop data, as well as pursue recommendations from the report regarding post stop activities,” the statement continued.
“This department is committed to reduce racial disparities from stops or other actions, whenever possible, while continuing to evaluate the outcomes of various crime reduction strategies, as well as creating additional metrics related to building community engagement and trust.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)