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LAPD officer profiled Latinos in traffic stops, internal probe concludes

Officer Patrick Smith is alleged to have stopped Latino motorists because of their ethnicity and falsified his records to say they were white. A disciplinary panel could vote to dismiss him.

March 27, 2012|By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times

Resentful of the continued federal oversight, department officials set about overhauling profiling inquiries. They created a special team of investigators to examine profiling complaints that focused on possible constitutional rights violations instead of trying to decipher the mind set of the officers.

The department suffered an embarrassing setback in 2010 when Justice Department officials became aware of a recording that captured two LAPD officers being dismissive of racial profiling complaints. "So what?" one said, when told that other officers had been accused of stopping a motorist because of his race. The second officer is heard saying that he "couldn't do [his] job without racially profiling."

The officers' comments, Justice officials wrote in a letter to the LAPD, spoke to a "perception and attitude of some LAPD officers on the street" and suggested "a culture that is inimical to race-neutral policing." That drew the ire of Beck, who said the Justice Department was unfairly using a few examples to make the case for a widespread problem.

Since then, the ongoing work of the new bias investigation unit and increased oversight by the commission has satisfied Justice Department officials, who cleared the LAPD of continued oversight on the issue.

Smith, sources said, first came under suspicion when multiple people he stopped filed complaints against him. It is unknown how many people he is accused of improperly stopping or misidentifying in his records.

joel.rubin@latimes.com

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