A black LAPD officer was driving an unmarked Crown Victoria in Beverly Hills, with license plates that would have made most understand he was sitting in a law enforcement car. Then he saw the red and blue lights behind him.
“The female officer yelled, ‘Let me see your hands,'” reads an affidavit from the officer, who is now a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department. “I was terrified.”
The officer, who made the statement confidentially in court documents because he feared retaliation, said he immediately yelled that he was driving a police car, fearing the Beverly Hills officer had a gun pointed in his direction.
“There is no doubt in my mind that I was arrested and racially profiled because I am a Black American,” the statement read.
The affidavit describing the incident, which allegedly occurred on March 2, 2013, was recently submitted to the court to bolster a class-action lawsuit against Beverly Hills police, accused of disproportionately targeting and arresting black people in the rich city. including Los Angeles police officers.
“If black police cannot be safe in Beverly Hills, God help the average black citizen,” Benjamin Crump, the attorney who filed the suit, said at a news conference outside the Beverly Hills City Hall Friday morning.
Crump — who has represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other high-profile civil rights cases — filed the case in August 2021 with attorney Bradley Gage. In the lawsuit, attorneys say Beverly Hills police targeted black people when the agency formed a task force to address Rodeo Drive businesses’ concerns about increased burglaries, shoplifting and public intoxications.
Lawyers say hundreds of Black people were targeted, handcuffed and arrested by Beverly Hills police between 2019 and 2021, but no charges have been filed in court.
The class-action lawsuit, which includes 1,086 potential class members, seeks $500 million from the city to, as Gage put it, “hit them in the wallet.”
“You can’t get change without getting their attention,” Gage said at the news conference. “This has to stop, and we are here to stop it.”
Beverly Hills police and city officials in general denied the allegations made Friday by Crump, Gage and LAPD officers.
“The City of Beverly Hills continues to vigorously defend this matter and denies the characterizations of the facts and evidence presented today,” read a statement from the city spokesperson. “Beverly Hills is an international destination that welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world. »
The statement continues: “The role of the Beverly Hills Police Department is to enforce the law, regardless of race. »
Gage and Crump said their two-year-old lawsuit continued to provide evidence of discrimination and profiling by the police department, including accounts from a current Los Angeles police officer and a former who said they were targeted because they were black despite obvious indications. were police officers.
Gage said the officers’ accounts were being used as witness statements in the lawsuit and they are not plaintiffs because the incidents occurred outside the trial period, but he and Crump are considering filing more lawsuits. lawsuits against the city over additional profiling allegations. .
Attorneys Crump and Gage likened the wealthy enclave and the profiling allegations to a sunset town — one where non-whites face discrimination through intimidation or violence.
“It was a method of intimidation to whistle at black people straight from Beverly Hills, straight from City Hall,” Crump said.
In another incident, a now-retired LAPD officer and former member of the department’s SWAT team said the officer was once arrested by a white Beverly Hills police sergeant while wore a uniform and drove a marked LAPD car.
“Can’t you see I’m in a police car and in uniform? » asked the officer after being arrested.
The sergeant reportedly replied: “Anyone can have a lighted car. »
In the statement, the retired officer suspected that race was only one reason behind the stop.
“It should be noted that when I was behind the sergeant, he could not see my license plate, only the fact that I am African American,” the witness statement read. “So the only reason I was arrested is because I’m African American. »
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Joseph Nett, said that when he was arrested in 2020 by Beverly Hills police, the officers placed him in the back of a patrol car and began to playing a rap song in the vehicle that repeated the N-word and referenced the killing of black men.
As they drove away with Nett in the backseat, he said, the two officers began talking about killing a man in the backseat because he had been improperly searched.
“The whole thing was extremely uncomfortable and terrifying,” he said.
The Beverly Hills Police Department launched its Rodeo Drive task force, according to Gage and Crump, not because of an increase in crime but because of protests in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills following George’s death Floyd, which led to hundreds of arrests. Crump called the task force “theater.”
The city also faced criticism after charging protesters with minor curfew violations in 2020, and a sergeant wrote in a summary of protests in Beverly Hills that local residents who survived the Holocaust and to the Iranian Revolution saw the peaceful protests as a “terrifying reminder of their past.”
Gage blasted the comparison Friday.
“Why should seeing a black person terrorize residents? he said. “This is the epitome of policing targeting black people.”
Los Angeles Times