Saturday, May 03, 2008

Selective Prosecution and Enforcement, part II

As if right on cue, my Google Reader leads me to Pandagon, who brings home the issue of understanding structural violence and instututional bias right here in L.A.:

Uh huh. Here’s yet another reason why there is distrust out there about law enforcement “protecting and serving” everyone equally.

Los Angeles Police Department officials announced Tuesday that they investigated more than 300 complaints of racial profiling against officers last year and found that none had merit — a conclusion that left members of the department’s oversight commission incredulous.

It is at least the sixth consecutive year that all allegations of racial profiling against LAPD officers have been dismissed, according to department documents reviewed by The Times. I’m sure the vast majority are claims that cannot be proven since you have to prove the officer’s intent to say, pull over a black driver more often than a white one. But the LAPD has a sorry history, and that makes it difficult for some to believe the outcome of the report.

In February, the inspector general released a report that concluded investigators frequently failed to fully investigate citizen complaints against allegedly abusive officers, often omitting or altering crucial information.

The report, and extensive media attention, sparked calls by commissioners for a review of the complaint investigation process. The issue of racial profiling reaches back into one of the department’s darkest periods. Since 2000, the department has been working to implement scores of reforms included in a federal consent decree that stems from the Rampart corruption scandal. As part of the decree, the department is required to gather and analyze racial data involving vehicle and pedestrian stops.

But conclusive figures that might indicate whether systemic racial profiling is a problem in the LAPD have remained elusive. Department and city officials early on acknowledged that the raw data collected by officers when they make a stop are unhelpful because they do not include factors such as the race of the officer, the predominant race of the neighborhood in which the stop was made, and whether the stop resulted in an arrest and conviction.

Of course it’s hard to prove, but none of the cases had any merit? Come on, let’s be real. The problem here is that the profiling is less about race in some instances, but a focus on a particular demographic (dressed in hip-hop wear, in the “wrong” neighborhood, etc.), and in that case, you will end up with young minority youth getting pulled over or searched more often. When does a law enforcement officer’s “hunch” cross the line into straight-out bias — remember, as Francis Holland pointed out in an earlier post, you can be a black police officer and be color-aroused. Check out the comments in the LAT article’s thread — they run the gamut.

The question here is about the effort to curtail the bias. Collecting all the data about the officer and the suspect/victim doesn’t