July 2018 Warning Bells article

July 2018 – What if we just give them what they want?

The LAPD is required on July 1, 2018, to be subject to Assembly Bill 953 (now Gov. Code 12525.5, known as the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015). You will be required to fill out a four-page document answering questions about every person you detain or search, no matter what the reason for the encoun­ter. And yes, any pat-down is considered a search. The 11 data fields that you are familiar with have been increased to 25 data fields, and a narrative has also been added where you must write the reason for the stop and the basis of any search. This includes detectives, patrol, task force and plainclothes assignments. If that is not enough, off-duty uniform assignments are also included, such as Dodger games, Staples Center events, USC or NFL football games, and MTA details. The Department is in the process of developing a phone app. Remember the pods?

There is a clear message here by those in charge. That message is “we don’t like detentions. After all, detentions are what lead to uses of force and to biased policing complaints. Uses of force and biased policing complaints would be steeply reduced if you darn cops would just stop stopping people.”

That is true. Unfortunately, reducing proactive policing (stopping people) results in higher crime rates because criminals get to carry their dope and guns around without interference. Then again, no one in government or the media gets upset over higher crime rates, only uses of force and biased polic­ing complaints.

Management wants you to be proac­tive but blows in the political wind if there is an excessive use of force alle­gation or biased policing complaint lodged against you. That puts you in an awkward position. You are engaging in an activity that those in power do not want you to do.

That four-page report you must fill out every time you detain someone will form a pie chart that can and will be parsed in many ways. Are you stopping persons of a certain race in a greater proportion than their population pro­portion in the city? Do you search a greater number of persons of a certain race more than persons of another race? What percentage of your searches actually result in the recovery of con­traband? And on and on.

If you are accused of biased policing, your pie chart will be marched out. If it is not balanced, you will be on the defense to explain why. This brings up an interesting question. If your pie chart is unbalanced, what does the Department want you to do?

First of all, an individual officer has no way of running his or her pie chart. Second, the Department does not have a mechanism of warning you if your pie chart becomes unbalanced. The IT system certainly has the ability to send you an email warning you that your pie chart is approaching an unbalanced state. If we are concerned about biased policing allegations, wouldn’t it make sense to warn an officer of an unbal­anced pie chart? Why wait until there is a use of force or personnel complaint to find out when it is too late?

Let’s say that your pie chart is unbal­anced through no fault of your own. What does the Department want you to do? Should you concentrate on stop­ping people of another race to balance your pie chart out? That would require you to make your stops on the basis of race. That doesn’t sound right. An unbalanced pie chart cannot be straightened out without being racist. Maybe you need to be removed from the field until the pie chart balances through the passage of time? Doesn’t sound good for your career, but neither is being a presumed racist by statistics.

How about just avoiding the problem by stop stopping people? That seems to be the only solution that will satisfy those in power and protect officers. New York and Chicago have already traveled down this road because of con­stant attacks accusing them of racism. New York went from 686,000 incidents of Stop and Frisk in 2011 to 12,000 in 2016, according to the National Review. A 98 percent reduction. Chicago officers in 2016 were required to fill out (only) a two-page report every time they stopped someone. Stops went down 80 percent. Chicago officers called it the “ACLU effect.” The media claims that neither of these statistics resulted in a higher crime rate. Hmmm … maybe we should test that theory out here in Los Angeles.

The bottom line is that Stop and Frisk walks you out on a limb, and there are a multitude of people out there walking around with saws looking for a chance to cut that limb off. The Department is not providing much of a safety net and, even when it does, the Police Commission is likely to overturn the Chief’s efforts.

So let’s return to the question, why not give them what they want? After all, this is a democracy, aren’t we supposed to do what the theoretical majority wants us to do? Shouldn’t our government be allowed to experience the results of its philoso­phy? Why should officers risk injury and career damage by doing something that the politicians are against? Good ques­tions. Think about it.

Be legally careful out there.

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