Under the proposed new rules, Los Angeles police officers who fail to explain why they make frequent stops in criminal investigations will be forced to undergo training and then face increasingly severe penalties.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Board is expected to vote on the controversial new policy that would restrict an officer’s ability to make mock stops, in which police would stop drivers or pedestrians for minor violations and then investigate them for more serious crimes.
If the proposal passes, which is expected, officers would be required to record themselves on their body-worn cameras before or during stops, explaining why they suspect someone has committed a more serious crime.
The commission reviewed an early draft of the proposed policy earlier this month, but suspended the vote to allow members of the public to intervene and continue discussions on the proposal with officials from the union that represents the officers of based.
A new draft policy, which includes language on how officers who violate the new rules will be disciplined, was released on Friday as part of the Police Commission’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting.
“Failure to sufficiently articulate the information which – in addition to the traffic violation – caused the officer to stop the pretense, will result in progressive discipline, beginning with counseling and retraining” , according to the new language. “Discipline will intensify with successive breaches of this mandate.”
The policy does not provide for any specific sanctions.
The discipline proposal further upset leaders of the Los Angeles Police Protection League, the union that represents officers. The union had opposed the previous version of the policy, saying it would prevent officers from making regular and lawful stops that are a primary tool in fighting crime.
On Friday, the union’s board of directors called the Police Commission “tone deaf” for ordering the policy changes – which administrators called “reckless”.
“Ordering the police not to enforce the law will further embolden criminals and keep more guns on our street,” the union leaders said. “It’s an irresponsible policy that begs the question: what’s next? Stop enforcing the law on misdemeanors, certain crimes? »
Union leaders said the new discipline wording “will have a negative impact on community policing” if officers “are told they may get in trouble for making a lawful car stop”.
Reform supporters have also denounced the new policy, although for different reasons: They argue that pretext stops disproportionately affect people of color and should be banned altogether. In a letter sent by dozens of critics to the commission, they called the proposed policy a “fictional” reform that would simply give police extra cover to continue harassing people of color.
“While purporting to restrict or limit these stops, the policy actually explains how officers can continue the same abusive behavior in a new form,” they wrote.
Reform supporters also took issue with the discipline’s new wording, calling it toothless.
Leslie Johnson, vice president of organizational development at Community Coalition, said Friday that many community organizations oppose the policy because it fails to end pretext shutdowns and “ignores the lived realities of black and brown people.” .
The proposed plan to train and punish officers doesn’t change their position, she said, because it lacks “enforcement mechanisms” outside of LAPD’s internal disciplinary processes, and communities “can’t believe that this department will be held accountable”.
Reform supporters have criticized previous attempts at so-called progressive discipline in the LAPD as ineffective and overly lenient. More recently, officers violating the department’s COVID-19 mask mandate have often escaped punishment entirely, critics have claimed.
Pretext arrests have come under increasing scrutiny in Los Angeles in recent years.
In a 2019 analysis, the Times found that black and Latino drivers were stopped more often than white drivers, despite being less likely to have contraband on them, and that black drivers were stopped at a rate more than five times their share of the population of Los Angeles.
A later LAPD Inspector General study also found in 2020 that black and Latino drivers were stopped significantly more than white drivers, despite being less likely to have contraband, and stops were ” of limited effectiveness in identifying evidence of illegal firearms or other serious crimes” – with only 2% of traffic stops resulting in an arrest.
In response to these findings, the Police Commission ordered the LAPD to revise its policy on mock stops.
If adopted, the new policy requires that such stops “not be based on mere intuition or general characteristics such as race, gender, age, homelessness status or presence in a place to high crime”.
And unless the officer can clearly state why he suspects a more serious crime has been committed, the length of a person’s detention should not exceed what is necessary to remedy the minor offense that prompted the arrest.
Lizabeth Rhodes, director of constitutional policing and policy for the LAPD, said earlier this month that the new policy balances public safety needs with the department’s need for community collaboration and trust, limiting such stops without the completely ban.
Los Angeles Times