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LAPD: Verbal consent now a must to search someone during routine stops

New rules say officers must record detainees agreeing to a search if officers are making a stop without reasonable suspicion


Photo/Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS

By Josh Cain
Daily News, Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Police Department officers who search people during routine stops must now document getting consent for those searches, according to a new policy approved Tuesday

The new rules, adopted in a unanimous Los Angeles Police Commission vote, mean LAPD officers must use their body cameras to record detainees verbally agreeing to a search, or get written permission, if they’re making the stop without a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred.

The change in policy follows an Office of Inspector General report released in October that showed LAPD was stopping Black and Latino drivers at a disproportionate rate to white drivers for minor traffic violations, as well as subjecting them to more intense searches of their vehicles.

The intent of the searches was to suppress violent crime, Inspector General Mark Smith wrote in the report. But the strategy didn’t work.

“The OIG concluded that some portion of the racial disparities seen in both stops and post-stop activity ... were the result of strategies designed to use these violations as a pretext to identify or suppress more serious crimes,” Smith wrote. “The data also indicates that these strategies are, on balance, of limited effectiveness in identifying evidence of illegal firearms or other serious crimes.”

The report found that in hundreds of thousands of such searches, Black and Latino drivers were less likely to be caught with guns or drugs than white drivers, or to be arrested of crimes.

The practice came under scrutiny after a Los Angeles Times investigation found that squads of crime suppression officers in LAPD’s Metropolitan Division were making thousands of stops of mostly innocent drivers in South L.A. and around downtown.

After furious outcry from community leaders and civil rights activists, LAPD wound down the strategy. The department recently redeployed Metro Division officers in units investigating shootings.

The policies adopted Tuesday do not affect officers’ ability to stop and search people who they suspect have committed crimes.

“This order pertains only to consensual searches and should not be confused with other legal searches, such as pat-downs when an officer has articulable facts which cause him or her to reasonably believe the person is dangerous or may be carrying a weapon,” officials wrote in the new policy.

Commissioners said the policies implemented Tuesday, which also included new rules for serving search and arrest warrants, were part of a move to reduce biases found in the way LAPD polices different communities. Several commissioners also expressed interest in studying the effects on crime in other cities where police are banned from making any kinds of pretextual stops.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore, however, balked for now at ending such stops altogether. He said the department would continue “proactive policing” strategies, especially amid a spike in shooting violence this year.

“We need those officers out there,” he said. “And I think the vast majority of Angelenos want those officers out there.”

P.U.S.H. LA, a coalition of civil rights groups that includes Black Lives Matter LA and the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement after Tuesday’s vote that the new rules didn’t go far enough.

Speaking at the commission meeting, Hamid Khan, a frequent LAPD critic who founded the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, said the numbers in the inspector general report showed the department needed to end pretextual stops.

“The facts on the ground remain: We have people who were directly impacted because of these stops,” Khan said. “They talked about the level of humiliation, they talked about the level of dehumanization.”

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