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Policing practices

October 31, 2008

Re "Which is the true LAPD?" editorial, Oct. 24

Blacks and Latinos are more likely to live in districts with higher crime rates. Professor Ian Ayres did account for this in his report for the ACLU of Southern California on racial disparities in policing by the LAPD.

Ayres found racial disparities in stops, frisks, searches and arrests even after controlling for local crime rates. Contrary to your editorial's suggestion, these disparities were not explained by higher crime rates in areas where people of color live, or any other legitimate policing rationale that could be discerned from the data. The mere correlation between crime and minority residence does not mean that statistical analysis is incapable of uncovering racially disproportionate policing practices.

The editorial's larger point, however, is correct. Careful analysis of credible data is necessary to identify the existence and causes of racial disparities. We applaud The Times' call for the LAPD to work with Ayres to continue to detect racially disparate policing by its officers.

Peter Bibring

Los Angeles

The writer is a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

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