Pubdate: Thu, 02 Nov 2000
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2000 Southam Inc.
Contact:  300 - 1450 Don Mills Road, Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3R5
Fax: (416) 442-2209
Page: A2
Author: Araminta Wordsworth, staff writer
Bookmark: L.A. Rampart Scandal:


Bid to determine abuses: Officers to record ethnic background of those they stop

Nearly 10 years after the brutal beating of black motorist Rodney King by
police officers and in the wake of the Rampart division's corruption
scandal, the city of Los Angeles announced yesterday it has cut a deal with
the U.S. government over its out-of-control police force.

The deal makes the LAPD the largest police department in the United States
to fall under federal supervision.

The Justice Department will not run the force directly. But stringent
measures will force police to note the ethnic background and gender of
motorists or pedestrians they stop, to allow monitoring for abuse of

The deal, known as a consent decree on reform of the embattled force, ends
months of tense negotiations between the city and lawyers from the federal
Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

But it comes over the protestations of Richard Riordan, the city's Mayor,
and Bernard Parks, its police chief. It was also drawn up without
consultation with the union representing most of L.A.'s 9,000 police
officers, who are irked they were left out of the process.

The Justice Department has the authority to call for a consent decree if an
investigation finds "a pattern or practice of police abuse."

The tough new agenda includes the imposition of an independent monitor to
probe the LAPD's inner workings, an appointment that must be made by March.
The person selected will serve for five years and control a US$10-million

The city has agreed to build a computerized system for tracking police
officers intended to give supervisors the ability to monitor them more
closely and identify patterns of potential misconduct.

A similar system was installed in Pittsburgh, the only other major U.S.
city to have its police force under federal supervision as a result of a
consent decree.

Such a system might well have prevented the corruption in the Rampart
division's anti-gang unit. Officers detailed to this tough, inner-city area
routinely peddled confiscated drugs while beating up and framing innocent
people, often shooting them.

The department is also obliged to collect data on the ethnic background and
gender of motorists pulled over while driving or pedestrians stopped while
walking on the streets if no crime was being committed.

The information will allow officials to determine if racial profiling is
occurring and whether police are biased in deciding who to detain. The
form-filling will not be required if a criminal investigation is under way.

For their part, the police claim the new procedure will result in more
burdensome bureaucracy.

"Many of the provisions of the consent decree are counterproductive to
ensuring public safety," Hank Hernandez, general council for the Los
Angeles Police Protective League, told the Los Angeles Times yesterday.

"It has a negative impact on the officers' ability to do their job. Every
time they make a pedestrian stop, they have to fill out a form? It impacts
the amount of time officers spend in the field."
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MAP posted-by: Eric Ernst