By Ray Richardson
LOS ANGELES — Black motorists are “five times more likely” to get stopped by Los Angeles police officers than whites, a trend supported by data in a two-year study released on May 4 by Advancement Project California.
Data analyzed by Advancement Project California and PUSH LA indicated that 27% of traffic stops in Los Angeles between 2018 and 2020 involved Black motorists, compared to 18% of white drivers in the same time period.
“It’s obvious there are clear disparities with LAPD when it comes to people of color and traffic stops,” said Chauncee Smith, manager of the Race Counts initiative with Advancement Project California and the study’s chief researcher. “The work we’ve done sheds even more light on the problem.”
Smith said Advancement Project California, a racial justice organization specializing in research, advocacy and policy, is hopeful that the study will eventually lead to “meaningful changes” in what Black community leaders have labeled as “over-policing.”
An LAPD spokesperson told The Wave May 5 that the department is preparing a formal response to the study, which is titled “Reimagining Traffic Safety And Bold Political Leadership In California.”
Latino communities were analyzed as well. The study reported that Latino drivers were 1.6 times more likely than white drivers to be stopped and 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for a traffic violation.
In addition to releasing the two-year data, Advancement Project California called for specific changes with LAPD, including removal of the LAPD’s Metro Division from South Los Angeles and the use of unarmed police officers to handle traffic stops or violations.
“The recommendations from this report outline the changes needed to move towards reimagining public safety in a way that honors the clarion call of activists, while actually improving safety outcomes at once,” Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said in a statement.
Smith said the use of unarmed police officers for traffic stops might force the LAPD to hire more officers, but overall safety and easing tensions at traffic stops is the ultimate objective. Traffic stops have led to high-profile shootings of unarmed Black motorists by police officers in cities around the country.
A traffic stop led to the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year old Black man in Brooklyn Center, Minn., who was shot by a police officer in April. Wright was pulled over for expired tags on his license plate.
Smith referred to another common example of a traffic stop that has led to questionable outcomes.
“Why does a broken tail light require a police officer with a gun?” Smith asked. “The driver needs a mechanic, not an armed officer. Instead of giving them a ticket, give them a voucher where they can go get their car fixed. We want to identify the root causes that lead to this abuse of power we see so much.”
The study also revealed an economic disparity. Traffic stops were higher in low-income Black neighborhoods than low-income white communities, according to the study.
Other recommendations urged in the study include:
- Improving urban design to improve traffic safety in Los Angeles.
- Holding officers accountable for misconduct.
- And banning vehicle consent searches.
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.