February 2018 Warning Bells article

February 2018 – Biased policing: Deja vu all over again

The Department is still searching hard for that biased policing officer, but the gallows have been hanging empty and gathering dust despite the millions of dollars invested in ferreting out this ultimate crime. But don’t expect the effort to let up.

If nothing else, though, it has generated a wealth of statistics. Some quite fascinating. Statistics aren’t complete yet for 2017, but there were 205 biased policing complaints taken in 2016. As Chief Beck pointed out during a Police Commission meeting, when LAPD officers make over a million contacts a year, that works out to zero percent. True, but the pressure is still on to get those gallows dusted off even though the number of allegations have been going down. In 2015, there were 261, in 2014 there were 284. The Commission president thinks that this might be due to the biased policing training that all officers have attended.

Statistically speaking, patrol officers get the most biased policing complaints (46 percent), Metro next (10 percent). West Bureau is the leader (29 percent), with Valley Bureau coming in second (24 percent). Even though female officers make up 18 percent of the Department, they only get 11 percent of the biased policing complaints. Ethnically, each racial group received complaints in proportion to their Department composition, and age and time on the Department were also proportional.

The most dangerous police activity in garnering a biased policing complaint is traffic enforcement. Those making the complaints were 56 percent African-American, 21 percent Hispanic, and 9 percent Caucasian. Race/ethnic bias is alleged the most (90 percent), with gender bias coming in a distant second (5 percent). And then comes adjudication. None of the complaints were sustained; 81 percent were unfounded, 10 percent were classified as “insufficient evidence to adjudicate,” 2 percent were “not resolved” and 7 percent were mediated.

Mediated? What does that mean? Mediation is a process that the League helped to negotiate about four years ago. The idea was that the complainant and the officer meet with an outside mediator and talk over the complaint. This avoids a biased policing investigation. That is a good thing. A mediated complaint also does not appear on your TEAMS as discipline. That is another good thing. It also saves time and money. Mediation of a biased policing complaint averages 69 days to completion. A biased policing investigation averages 277 days to completion. Salary cost of mediation is $335. Salary cost of a biased policing investigation is $1,580. More good things. So why don’t we do more of them?

Well, 40 percent of the time, the complaint is not eligible for mediation because it involved allegations of other serious misconduct, such as an unnecessary force allegation. But 60 percent were eligible. The problem was that 65 percent of the time, the complainant refused to participate, and 24 percent of the time the officer refused to participate. When the parties did elect to participate, however, the satisfaction rate with the process was 84 percent for the complainants and 89 percent for the officers. Eighty-three percent of the complainants thought the process was fair, and a whopping 97 percent of the officers felt it was fair.

Since it appears to be a good thing in comparison to a biased policing investigation that rivals an officer-involved shooting investigation in intensity, as those officers who have gone through it can attest, the problem seems to be to get more citizens and officers to agree to mediate. The process is completely voluntary on the part of both the complainant and the officer. No attorneys or representatives are allowed. Juveniles may have parents present, but any other support person must be agreed upon by both parties.

Mediations are confidential. What is said, or written, is confidential under the Evidence Code, so what either party says during the mediation cannot be used outside the mediation. Both parties sign an acknowledgment of this provision before mediating. That gives the process protection and allows the participants to speak candidly. The mediators are civilians, trained in mediation, and selected by the City Attorney. No Department personnel are allowed to be mediators, and the mediators cannot be former police officers. There is no requirement that the mediation reach a formal resolution. The idea is to get the parties together to exchange points of view. That being done, the mediation is deemed to be successful.

The process starts with the Department coordinator, who reviews the biased policing complaint to see if it is eligible for mediation. If so, the coordinator will contact the complainant to see if there is interest in mediating. If the complainant is willing, the officer is then contacted. If both are willing, the coordinator arranges a mutually agreeable time for the complainant, officer and mediator to meet. If the complainant fails to appear on that date, one opportunity to reschedule will be given. If the complainant fails to appear again (or fails to respond to attempts to reschedule), the complaint is closed as “mediated.” If the officer fails to appear, again an opportunity to reschedule will be given. A second failure to appear will result in the complaint referred back to Internal Affairs to proceed with the formal investigation.

If the parties do appear, agreements to mediate are signed and the mediation takes place. Regardless of the results, the complaint is closed as “mediated,” and that is what will appear on the officer’s TEAMS. Mediated complaints do not show up on TEAMS performance review, promotion/paygrade advancement, final selection process/transfer, RMEC, RMIS or disciplinary review screens. This is an advantage over the “not resolved” adjudication, which does show up on the performance review, final selection process/transfer, RMEC, RMIS and disciplinary review screens. And, of course, it is infinitely better than a “sustained” classification, which appears on everything.  So my advice is to participate in any mediation process that you may be entitled to.

Body Worn Video (BWV) and Digital In Car Video (DICVS) have been touted as the solution to all biased policing complaints. How has that worked out? Only 35 percent of the biased policing complaints were in divisions that had BWV or DICVS. Nevertheless, in 81 percent of the complaints where video existed, the video assisted in adjudicating the complaint. Since no complaints were sustained, it can be inferred that the video was helpful. In fact, an example is given where during a traffic stop an officer was accused of pushing the complainant up against a car, calling him a “baby killer” for being in the military, and using profanity when he was told to “shut up.” DICVS disproved everything, and the complaint was unfounded.

By February, the distribution of BWV is supposed to be completed. If the trend above continues, the videos will be valuable in rebutting biased policing allegations. Hopefully, the dust on the gallows will only get thicker.

Be legally careful out there.

Comments are closed.