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LAPD investigation finds one of its own guilty of racial profiling

Photo by jondoeforty1 via Flickr Creative Commons

A 15-year LAPD veteran was found to be targeting Latino drivers for traffic stops, an internal police investigation has reportedly shown. It's the first time the LAPD found one if its own guilty of racial profiling, says the L.A. Times.

Patrick Smith, who was reportedly relieved of duty during the investigation, worked solo on motorcycle assignment in the West Traffic division where he was found to be stopping Latinos "based on their race and deliberately misidentifying some Latinos as white on his reports, presumably in an effort to conceal the fact that the people he pulled over were overwhelmingly Latino," according to sources, the Times reports.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck signed off on the investigation's findings and Smith was ordered to a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing, the department will attempt to have him fired, said sources. A three-person board must hear the case and decide – the chief can not independently fire an officer.

“The initial reaction was shock and surprise,” Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Urban Policy Roundtable, said.

For years, Hutchinson and other civil rights activists have been frustrated with the LAPD’s denial that racial profiling occurs, or that it can’t be proven. “It does seem like there’s a reversal here.”

Hutchinson noted the case comes weeks before the 20th anniversary of the riots triggered by the verdict in the Rodney King beating.

“Racial profiling was at the heart of all of the turmoil and uproar 20 years ago,” he said. “I think it [the case] raises awareness on the part of many citizens…and hopefully within the LAPD that there still is a problem within this department.”