The department is interested in testing a chemical agent called capstun, used by the FBI and numerous other law enforcement agencies. Several officers also indicated support for the stun gun. This weapon, like the Taser, uses an electrical charge to control the suspect but, unlike the Taser, is held in contact with the suspect.
CHAPTER FOUR: RACISM AND BIAS AFFECTING USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE
Subsequent to the King beating, an LAPD survey of 960 officers found that approximately one-quarter of 650 officers responding agreed that "racial bias (prejudice) on the part of officers toward minority citizens currently exists and contributes to a negative interaction between police and the community." More than one-quarter of the poll's respondents agreed that "an officer's prejudice towards the suspect's race may lead to the use of excessive force."
Within the minority communities of Los Angeles, there is a widely held view that police misconduct is commonplace. The King beating refocused public attention on longstanding complaints by African- Americans, Latinos and Asians that LAPD officers frequently treat minorities differently from whites, more often using disrespectful and abusive language, employing unnecessarily intrusive practices such as the "prone-out," and engaging in use of excessive force when dealing with minorities.
While the issue of racism in Los Angeles law enforcement is not new, the changing demographic profile of the city . . . has heightened the need for sustained efforts at finding solutions to this troubling problem.
Shortly before Officers Powell and Wind responded to the call for assistance in the pursuit of Rodney King, they had handled a domestic disturbance call at the home of an African-American family. In their exchange with the radio telephone operator over their (computers), the Powell-Wind unit described the incident as being "right out of 'Gorillas in the Mist.' " The department unit receiving this message responded in what has been described as mock African-American language, "ha ha ha . . . let me guess who be the parties."
Because of the offensive nature of the comment and response, the commission undertook the extensive general review of (computer) transcripts. This review revealed an appreciable number of disturbing and recurrent racial remarks.
Some of the remarks describe minorities through animal analogies or are derisive of ethnic origins or minority groups. "Sounds like monkey-slapping time."
The officers typing the (computer) messages apparently had little concern that they would be disciplined or otherwise sanctioned for making those remarks.
A review of records provided by the LAPD indicates that only a small number of personnel complaints have been sustained on the ground of improper racial remarks in the seven-year period from 1984 to 1990. The sustained complaints resulted in modest penalties.
A large number of witnesses complained that there is a general climate of hostility between the police and members of minority communities and that discourtesy and verbal harassment by LAPD officers are commonplace. That perception was shared by former Assistant Chief of Police Jesse Brewer.
Discussions held with a cross-section of the city's religious leaders indicate that even respected members of minority communities are subject to harassment by the LAPD.
Many witnesses complained of the apparent practice by the police of stopping individuals because they resemble a generalized description of a suspect or because they appear not to belong in a particular neighborhood.
Routine stops of young African-American and Latino males, seemingly without "probable cause" or "reasonable suspicion," may be part and parcel of the LAPD's aggressive style of policing. The practice, however, breeds resentment and hostility among those who are its targets.
The commission also heard numerous complaints about the frequency and manner of use of police dogs in minority neighborhoods.
Bias In the Treatment of Minority Police Officers
The (computer) messages and other evidence suggest that minority officers are still too frequently subjected to racist slurs and comments and to discriminatory treatment by fellow officers.
There is concern about the apparent lack of sensitivity among supervisors to the debilitating effects that racial and ethnic biases have, not only on minority officers' acceptance and treatment within the department but on the way in which LAPD officers interact with the public. Many of the officers expressed fear that, if it were known that they were speaking to the commission on these issues, their careers might suffer or they might become known as troublemakers and be ostracized by their peers. One of the officers interviewed reported that, after meeting with members of the commission staff, he found a hangman's noose on the telephone that he used every morning to call home from the station.