October 26, 2016
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Report On Bias At L.A. Sheriff's Office Released

 Los Angeles - A report released by  special counsel to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors found no significant disparity in the racial breakdown of sole obstruction arrests made by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, compared with that of all arrests made by its deputies in a one-year span.

The following is the general summary from the report:

This is the 29th Semiannual Report of Special Counsel to the Board of Supervisors, the Sheriff, and the general public concerning the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD). Since 1993, these reports study important issues in contemporary policing as they impact upon the LASD. They deal in particular with aspects of policing that run the risk of liability or the deterioration of trust and confidence by the communities and persons served by the LASD.

The 2009 confrontation in Cambridge, Massachusetts between Professor Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley generated a national conversation about the role race plays in policing, particularly whether police interpret frustration and anger by racial and ethnic minorities as threatening or potentially violent in circumstances where the police would not necessarily so interpret the same conduct by whites. If so, one might expect more charges of resistance, disturbing the peace, or interference against minority suspects. These charges are collectively and colloquially labeled "contempt of cop." This report will refer to those arrests as "discretionary" or "obstruction" charges.

The first two chapters of this report examine cases where a deputy arrests an individual on the sole charges of resisting arrest, delaying or obstructing a peace officer in his or her duties, or battery on a police officer without injury. We found disparities in the overrepresentation of blacks and Latinos, both adult and minor, in persons arrested on obstruction charges. Yet we compared the breakdown by race of obstruction arrests to that of all LASD arrests and found no notable difference, showing that the disproportion is not specific to this type of arrest.

We nonetheless were troubled by a seemingly overzealous use of such charges against blacks in the Lancaster area, where the proportion of blacks arrested on obstruction charges—64 percent—far exceeded the estimated 17 percent of blacks in the overall population. Palmdale and Carson stations raised some of these same concerns, but to a lesser degree.

We also found:

Among obstruction arrestees, white suspects were significantly less likely to be charged with felony obstruction, as compared to a similar misdemeanor charge, than were African-Americans and Latinos. According to our review of court data, similarly small percentages of each racial group (about two or three percent) were ultimately convicted of the felony charge. This may mean that felony charges against blacks are less likely to withstand prosecutorial scrutiny.

Of all suspects arrested on obstruction charges, African-Americans and Latinos had a relatively large percentage of suspects who were minors—23 percent of arrested blacks and 19 percent of arrested Latinos —as compared to white suspects, only ten percent of whom were under 18. 1 2

Overall, we found that deputies reported the use of force in approximately 31 percent of all obstruction arrests. The rate was higher, at about 50 percent, for arrestees charged with the more serious charges. Force was involved in the arrest of one quarter of those arrested with less serious charges. About 10 percent of the cases where deputies used force involved a suspect whose contemptuous but otherwise non-threatening behavior appeared to provide the primary reason for the initial escalation.

African-Americans and Latinos were more likely to have force used against them during an obstruction arrest than were whites, and men were more likely to have force used against them than women. Although we found examples of unnecessary or disproportionate force, we did not find a widespread pattern by LASD deputies to cover excessive force with questionable charges of resisting arrest. Nor did we find that LASD deputies regularly and systematically make arrests using force for verbal challenges and other expressions of anger or frustration by the detained individual, despite finding the approximately 10 percent in which it seemed to occur. In cases triggered by a verbal challenge by the suspect, the deputy appeared to escalate the encounter by prematurely taking action to physically place hands on or search the subject, or by issuing commands without explanation. To be sure, people should generally be courteous to the police and follow simple directions. Nonetheless, officers should work to balance their personal safety needs with courtesy and a respect for the suspect’s perception of the situation and make an effort to avoid or limit the use of force.


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