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New commissioner questions LAPD racial profiling stats

LOS ANGELES — The newest member of the Police Commission has called for a deeper look at the Los Angeles Police Department’s procedures for filing complaints about biased policing.

Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill Sept. 13 requested a re-examination of the way the LAPD handles complaints about racial profiling by officers, saying the existing efforts are inadequate.

“Community members aren’t convinced that we take bias seriously,” said McClain-Hill, who is black. “And I don’t really believe that anyone sitting in this room believes that our data captures the full extent of inappropriate or biased encounters.”

McClain-Hill said the department needs to train officers about bias, including the unconscious or “implicit” kind.

She noted that during the entire time the LAPD has been receiving and reviewing complaints of biased policing, “the number of sustained complaints, particularly with respect to racial bias, has been at or near zero.”

Critics of the police department have expressed incredulity that virtually every complaint made by the public about racial profiling by LAPD officers has been deemed unfounded, as has been indicated in the department’s periodic audits and reports on such complaints.

The commission adopted McClain-Hill’s motion, which calls for LAPD officials to report back on the issue on Nov. 1, at a meeting to be held in the community.

Her motion specifically requests that LAPD officials report on the biased policing complaint policies of other large cities, including Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Dallas and Baltimore.

She asked that officials find out how those municipalities define biased policing or racial profiling, as well as data on the number of complaints and the demographics of the cities and their respective departments.

McClain-Hill also asked for more details on how the LAPD tries to “identify any bias that a candidate may have” during the recruitment process, and how anti-bias training is provided to officers and what supervisors are doing to ensure that officers are not engaging in biased actions.

She also requested an update on how and when the department will roll out its planned implicit bias training.

“My goal here is to get us beyond the limitations, which seem obvious, of relying on a single metric — that is to say just the numbers captured” in biased policing complaint reports presented periodically to the commission, McClain-Hill said.

She added that she hopes the report will “promote a real and meaningful dialogue that can serve as the basis for real and meaningful policymaking,” and does not want her motion to be interpreted as suggesting that she believes “members of this department at large are inherently biased, or show up to work for any reason other than to do the very best job they can [in] protecting this city.”

McClain-Hill joined the Police Commission in early August after being appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to replace Robert Saltzman.

She is the managing director of the Los Angeles law firm Strategic Counsel and has served on the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency and the California Coastal Commission.