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LA police commission meeting looks at bias among officers

date:1395/08/26-14:40


This Oct. 4, 2016 file photo shows Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck speaking during a news conference in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Nick Ut, File

While critics disagree, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said biased policing is not “rampant” among officers in his department.

Beck made the comment at a news conference following a special Police Commission meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

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“It’s important to put forward that the vast majority of police officers do their job to the best of their ability free from bias,” he said. “Do I think that biased policing is rampant? Absolutely not.”

While Beck did admit that “everyone has bias,” he said the conversation needs to include those who have a “natural bias” against police.

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The meeting was intended to open dialogue and coincided with the release of a 143-page report on how the LAPD investigates complaints about biased policing.

“While the Department has significantly improved over the past decades, there is much work to be done to maintain and improve the level of public trust that is so essential for effective policing,” the report said.

Tuesday’s meeting also followed two high-profile officer-involved shootings last month in South L.A. that touched off a series of protests. On Oct. 1, 18-year-old Carnell Snell Jr., who police say brandished a gun at a strip mall, was fatally shot by officers. That same weekend, Daniel Perez, 16, was killed by officers who said he was holding an item disguised to look like a gun.

Tuesday’s police commission meeting marked one of the first times recently that the oversight panel was not disrupted by protesters.

Other speakers at the gathering included Peter Bibring of the ACLU of Southern California and UC Irvine law professor L. Song Richardson.

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No action was taken during the nearly four-hour session, but Richardson, an expert on implicit bias, told the police commission that “most individuals are affected by unconscious racial biases” as she displayed slides of images, warm and cold beverages and photos to get to a larger point across about stereotypes.

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“Social psychologists have found over the past three decades, that most of us, regardless of our race, unconsciously and automatically associate young black men with criminality, dangerousness and violence,” Richardson explained. “It doesn’t matter whether you consciously believe that or not. Our unconscious minds teach us these associations because we live in this society. Children as young as (age) 6 have anti-black biases already.”

Richardson went on to say that local television news, cartoons and sitcoms “help us practice these negative associations.”

Richardson’s potential solutions included police departments “putting systems in place to help reduce the impact of bias” such as a checklist for incidents regardless of race, gathering more information on situations instead of less and fostering positive contacts with members of the community to reduce stereotypes.

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In a statement after the meeting, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents the LAPD’s dedicated and sworn officers, said the report “validates” the “professional job our understaffed police officers are doing.”

After the meeting, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles member Trevor Gerard said it did not make him feel encouraged about what the police department is doing.

“This wasn’t about us being encouraged, this was about us continuing the work that has been going on, especially for the past two years and longer really, which is debunking publicly LAPD as it tries to do this as a PR spin,” Gerard said.

Gerard went on to describe police shootings as “state-sponsored violence.”

“LAPD can say they’re fixing their problem or they reflect the community, but still what we’re dealing with is extra-judicial killing,” Gerard said. “There’s been no court processes for people shooting people down the street. That’s the reality. So we’re coming here together as a community not only to voice our dissent but to voice the truth beyond the statistics.”

City News Service contributed to this report.




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