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Jan 2019
LAPPL Blog: The LA Times Metro Story: Some Missing Context
Board of Directors

The most recent flawed, skewed, and nonsensical Los Angeles Times “analysis” of the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division demonstrates the implicit bias some possess against reporting facts, put in the appropriate context, about Los Angeles police officers and how we do our jobs.

The January 24 L.A. Times article “‘Stop-and-frisk in a car:’ Elite LAPD unit disproportionately stopped black drivers data shows,” is the epitome of cherry-picking data to align with a preconceived false narrative. That false narrative, promulgated by the Times and its deliberate omission of important contextual data, admittedly zero evidence and any semblance of fair analysis, is designed to paint Metropolitan Division officers as racists who randomly stop black drivers. That reckless charge is offensive, it’s not true and is one of the worst kinds of lies anyone can tell.

Let’s be very clear. Los Angeles police officers target behavior, not skin color.

A more accurate headline for this particular Times story would be "Garbage in, garbage out." Wikipedia describes garbage in, garbage out as the concept that flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output, or “garbage.” The principle also applies more generally to all analysis and logic, in that arguments are unsound if their premises are flawed.

This type of garbage in, garbage out journalism is one of the reasons why the public is losing confidence and reliance upon publications like the L.A. Times to deliver fact-based reporting. A recent Knight Foundation survey of over 19,000 U.S. adults 18 and over, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Open Society Foundations found that 66 percent of Americans say most news media do not do a good job of separating fact from opinion.

Unfortunately, the January 24 L.A. Times story fuels this negative perception and is a disservice to all of the hardworking reporters who do a fair job reporting the news in a very difficult environment. We count ourselves among the eight in 10 adults surveyed who believe the news media is critical to our democracy, but the data-manipulating story published by the Times may be what’s feeding the 20 percent who don’t share our belief.

As for the Times Metro Division story, they deliberately bury in paragraph seven what should be the lead of their story:

“The data analyzed by the Times does not show why an individual officer pulled over a driver. It does not contain information about whether a driver was searched, ticketed, or arrested after the stop. Nor can the data prove that Metro officers are engaged in racial profiling.”

Hmmm, an interesting and telling paragraph, but one that is cast aside throughout most of the story in favor of sensationalizing incomplete data, a reliance upon interviewing an active, anonymous, and admitted Rollin’ 30s Harlem Crips gang member, and inclusion of comments from L.A.’s go-to anti-cop quote machine, Peter Bibring from the ACLU.

As for incomplete data, the Times fails to mention the fact that 90 percent of the homicide victims in Los Angeles in 2017 were either Black or Hispanic. While the Black population of Los Angeles is 9 percent, their make-up of homicide victims is more than four times that amount (37 percent).

It brings us no pleasure in publicizing these statistics. Each number above represents a family that’s been torn apart, lives that have been lost, or so negatively impacted, by violence that it is heartbreaking. But this is our reality.

The LAPD South Bureau neighborhoods showcased in the Times are described as, “Crips claim the north side of West 48th Street. To the south are the Van Ness Gangsters, a Bloods gang.” Forty-nine percent of all homicides in Los Angeles occurred in these South Bureau neighborhoods.

Gang violence in Los Angeles has a nasty history, one the LAPD and law-abiding residents have been working to contain for decades. In 2017, 103 murders (36.5 percent) were believed to be gang-related. However, the impact of gang violence is not limited to gangbangers. Rather, 44 percent of those murder victims were not gang members at all. That’s 58 innocent lives taken, 58 families destroyed by gang violence. Where’s the outrage?

The facts are that Los Angeles’ Black community is being victimized by violent crime at rates exponentially larger than their proportion of the population. The L.A. Times reporters who wrote this story knew about this unjust victimization rate among our Black residents because one of them tweeted about the victimization numbers.

At the Mayor’s direction, the LAPD added more resources where there is more crime and more crime victims. That decision was not based on race, it was based on calls for service and the occurrence of crime. Residents in neighborhoods experiencing violence, burglaries, car thefts and danger deserve to walk down their street without fear, to be in their front yard without worrying about getting caught in gang crossfire, and to feel safe. We applaud the Metro Division for going into harm’s way and working to protect law-abiding residents.

As opposed to painting an accurate picture of these officers' work, the story excluded victimization rate data so as to underpin its faulty logic. The story then goes on to devote eight paragraphs to promote the insight from an anonymous, just minding his own business, admitted active member of the entrenched violent street gang the Rollin 30s Harlem Crips.

As an aside, the Rollin 30s Harlem Crips have been terrorizing residents of South Central Los Angeles and all of Southern California for decades. This gang is credited with popularizing the knock and rob burglary technique. Gang members knock on residential doors and if the door is not answered, they break in and burglarize the residence. Great group of guys.

In paragraph three of the eight paragraph ode to the Rollin 30s gang section of the story, the reporters describe this anonymous person as just a 39-year-old youth counselor who was just enjoying time at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. He couldn’t understand why he was pulled over three times by Metro Division officers. Must be because he was black is what the gang member and story leads the reader to conclude.

It’s not until paragraph seven that the reporters disclose that the youth counselor is a member of the Rollin 30s Harlem Crips street gang. A gang that has claimed Martin Luther King Jr. Park as part of their territory. The anonymous gang member goes on to claim he was pulled over three times because of his race as well as his affiliation with the gang.

It’s not until the eighth paragraph that the story discloses that his car has paper plates, i.e., no license plates, and that might be another reason the police “singled him out.” Seriously, one can’t make this garbage up.

In an area of Los Angeles plagued by gangs, Metro Division officers observed a car leaving an area known for violent gang activity with no license plates and pulled the car over. Here’s a tip: If you are driving a car with a busted taillight or with paper plates or you almost hit a police car in a high-crime neighborhood where more officers are deployed, there is a much higher likelihood you will be pulled over. Regardless of your skin color. Whether you get a fix-it ticket, are released, or arrested will rely solely on the decisions you made prior to being pulled over and your interactions with police after you were pulled over. Period.

The reporters could have worked a little harder to seek out perspectives from the officers patrolling the neighborhoods featured in their story. The story also lacked any perspective from victims, community organizations working to make their streets safe or from the Los Angeles Police Protective League. But they sure sought out perspective from one of Los Angeles’s most recognized figures when it comes to spewing cop-hating rhetoric, the ACLU’s Peter Bibring.

Peter feigns his utter outrage over people like the anonymous gangbanger being pulled over for not having a license plate but nary a word for the thousands of crime victims that the Metro Division police officers are working to decrease. We are lucky not to be holding our breath for the ACLU to be outraged over the fact that 90 percent of homicide victims in 2017 were either Black or Hispanic. We are still waiting for the social media campaign to shine a light on the 58 innocent lives taken by gang violence in Los Angeles in 2017. We guess it doesn’t fit his, nor, unfortunately, the Times', false narrative.

Luckily for the law-abiding residents of the neighborhoods negatively impacted by violent crime, Los Angeles police officers will never abandon you. We will continue to respond to 911 calls and we will continue to proactively and lawfully seek out those intent on terrorizing neighborhoods. It’s our solemn duty.



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