Columns

LAPD Chief Buckles to L.A. Times, Curtails Stops for Improved 'Perception'

(Image credit LAPD)

As one might have predicted, the Los Angeles Times has prevailed in its latest campaign against the Los Angeles Police Department. Mayor Eric Garcetti being the kind of man he is, which is to say, not particularly blessed in the spine department, it was only a matter of time before he and his equally invertebrate police chief, Michel Moore, acquiesced to the activist demands engendered by the Times’s latest hit job.

Two writers at the Times, Cindy Chang and Ben Poston, have made it their mission to rid the LAPD of the bias they believe they have proved through analysis of stop data. Their premise is that because the department’s “stop rate” for all racial and ethnic groups does not precisely mirror each group’s share of the city’s population, something sinister is surely afoot. An article appearing under their bylines from January 24, 2019, made this accusation about the officers from Metropolitan Division, 200 of whose officers are deployed to various areas of the city to address each area’s unique crime trends.

Here on PJ Media, I wrote critically of the January piece, pointing out among its defects the fact that the benchmark Chang and Poston used to reach their conclusion was the racial and ethnic breakdown of the overall population of Los Angeles rather than its pool of criminal offenders. They neglected to include in their story the salient fact that though blacks make up 9 percent of the city’s population, they commit 43 percent of its violent crime, including 52 percent of its robberies, 34 percent of its homicides, and 36 percent of its aggravated assaults. It is on these types of crimes that proactive policing of the type they decry is most focused.

Chang and Poston followed up with a story published October 8, this time expanding their examination to the LAPD’s entire patrol force, which they conclude exhibits the same type of bias. Again I took them to task here on PJ Media, pointing out that though they grudgingly acknowledge the racial disparities in crime data, the story followed a scripted formula in dismissing them while blaming the skewed stop data on bias.

Succumbing to activist pressure, Chief Moore has announced changes to the way Metropolitan Division officers are deployed, with the changes to include far fewer vehicle and pedestrian stops. On Oct. 13, Chang and Poston wrote another story in which they crowed about their accomplishment.

“In a major shift prompted by a Times investigation,” the story begins, “the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Metropolitan Division will drastically cut back on pulling over random vehicles, a cornerstone of the city’s crime-fighting strategy that has come under fire for its disproportionate impact on black and Latino drivers.”

The error of their premise is on display from this very first sentence. Police officers do not conduct “random” stops. Every stop, whether of a car or a pedestrian, must be based on articulable reasonable suspicion, something that is relentlessly emphasized to LAPD officers, none more so than those working Metropolitan Division. And note that in this most recent Times article, the authors revert to their previous deception of referring to the racial breakdown in the overall population rather than in the offender pool.

Predictably, Chief Moore buckled. “Is the antidote or the treatment itself causing more harm to trust than whatever small or incremental reduction you may be seeing in violence?” he asked. “And even though we’re recovering hundreds more guns, and those firearms represent real weapons and dangers to a community, what are we doing to the tens of thousands of people that live in those communities and their perception of law enforcement?”

With this Moore acknowledges that he is willing to accept an increase in violence, which is to say, more dead people, so as to change people’s “perception” of the LAPD and appease the staff at the Los Angeles Times. And how many more shooting victims are Chief Moore and his puppet master Eric Garcetti willing to tolerate in the name of better public relations? That a rise in violence is “incremental” is small comfort if you or a loved one is part of the increment.

In condemning the LAPD as it does, the Times takes note of the fact that though whites are searched less frequently that blacks and Latinos, they are more often found with contraband leading to arrests. This, say Chang and Poston, is further proof of differential treatment.

I grant that Chang and Poston are ignorant of the realities of police work and may therefore be excused for exhibiting that ignorance, but some education is called for here. As noted above (and in many, many of my previous columns), the demographics of crime do not reflect those of the overall population, not in Los Angeles, not in any city you could name. In L.A. as elsewhere, blacks commit far more than their share of crime, whites and Asians far less; Latinos commit crimes in numbers roughly proportionate to their share of the population. This disproportion results in more blacks and Latinos than whites or Asians being on probation and parole and therefore subject to search conditions. (People on parole and most on probation are subject to search at any time; reasonable suspicion is not a requirement.)

Metropolitan Division officers, and those from the LAPD’s divisional gang units, know they may stop many gang members, or one gang member many times, before they find someone with a gun, but it is the knowledge that they may be stopped and searched that inhibits many gang members from acting out on the neighborhood grudges that have claimed thousands of young lives since the birth of L.A.’s street gangs in the 1970s.

I know from my experience working the streets in South Los Angeles that when a squad of Metro officers was in my division, things were most often very quiet. It’s impossible to quantify how many shootings they may have prevented over the years. We can only count the shootings that do occur, and it’s all but certain that soon we’ll be counting more than we have been.

What will Michel Moore and the Los Angeles Times say then?