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Once Again, the Los Angeles Times Unfairly Profiles Police as Racists

At the risk of being repetitive, we return once again to the Los Angeles Times, whose writers and editors seem to leap at any opportunity to present police officers in an unfavorable light. They are so eager to do so, in fact, that they are willing to omit relevant facts from their stories to achieve the purpose.

The latest example came on Oct. 4, when Times writers Joel Rubin and Ben Poston (with help from staff writers Ryan Menezes and Ruben Vives) wrote more than 3,500 words on what they and their editors believe is a serious problem within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, to wit, too many Latinos being stopped and searched for drugs on a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 5, known in Southern California as the Grapevine.

“The team of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies cruises the 5 Freeway,” the story begins, “stopping motorists on the Grapevine in search of cars carrying drugs. They’ve worked the mountain pass in Southern California since 2012 and boast a large haul: more than a ton of methamphetamine, 2 tons of marijuana, 600 pounds of cocaine, millions of dollars in suspected drug money and more than 1,000 arrests.”

Up to this point the reader might be saying: “That’s a lot of arrests and a lot of drugs. Sounds like good police work.”

But this is the Los Angeles Times, remember, where any law enforcement accomplishment must be viewed with the suspicion that the police did something improper to achieve it. And so comes the ominous kicker: “But behind those impressive numbers are some troubling ones.”

The story goes on to break down the racial disparities between drivers stopped by these sheriff’s deputies and those stopped on the same stretch of road by the California Highway Patrol. Sixty-nine percent of the drivers stopped by the deputies were Latino, while only 40 percent of those stopped by the CHP were. The conclusion you are asked to draw can only be that the deputies are “racially profiling” and illegally targeting Latinos.

And to bolster that conclusion, the story of course offers the opinion of “legal scholars” whose opinions conform with those of the writers. Quoted in the story are law professors David Harris of the University of Pittsburgh, Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia, and Alafair Burke of Hofstra University, none of whom, I’m guessing, would object to seeing their views on criminal law matters described as left-of-center. The Times quoted no law professors who might have provided an alternative point of view.

The Times also raised questions about the credibility of some of the deputies, pointing out that some of their cases had been dismissed in federal court. The story cited a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley, who earlier this year granted a motion to suppress evidence recovered in the 2017 arrest of Luis Alfonso Corrales Elias. Elias was stopped on the Grapevine and found to be transporting heroin and fentanyl in a secret compartment. The deputy who stopped him, Adam Halloran, testified that upon contacting Elias he smelled a strong odor of air freshener, often a telltale sign of someone trying to mask the scent of drugs.