Wednesday, April 04, 2012
The Los Angeles Police Department has concluded its investigation into a case involving an officer, who was accused of racially and ethnically profiling people at traffic stops. The investigation has concluded that Patrick Smith, who is a 15-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, has been targeting Hispanic drivers at traffic stops.
This is an important investigation, because it marks the first time that the Los Angeles Police Department, which frequently faces allegations of racial profiling, has actually concluded that one of its own officers engaged in such profiling.
Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have long raised suspicions of widespread profiling in the department. Those accusations were heavily voiced back in the 70s and 80s. Hundreds of police officers of the Los Angeles Police Department are accused of discrimination every year. However, most of those complaints go unsubstantiated.
The Los Angeles Police Department began an investigation into Patrick Smith and his profiling of Latino citizens. Smith was part of a motorcycle assignment in the Los Angeles west traffic division. Complaints began to emerge that he was deliberately misidentifying certain Latino voters as ‘white’ on his reports.
As complaints and evidence mounted against the officer, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck reviewed the evidence. Members of the Chief’s staff recommended that Smith be found guilty. Smith has been found guilty of the allegations against him, and has been ordered to appear before a disciplinary hearing. He's likely to be fired. During the investigation, Smith was relieved of duty.
Most complaints alleging racial and ethnic profiling by police officers emerge during traffic stops when police officers use a person’s physical and external appearance to determine his race and ethnicity. Every year, approximately 250 allegations of racial profiling are brought against Los Angeles police officers. Most of the time however, these complaints die a natural death. It is not easy to prove bias, unless the officer actually admits that his behavior was discriminatory.