In wake of several high profile officer involved shootings alleging police misconduct locally and nationwide, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to take a look at whether Los Angeles County’s law enforcement agencies can do more to mitigate implicit racial bias. The motion, authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, was passed just a week after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department admitted that an innocent black man was killed by a deputy in Compton following a pursuit and search for suspects. The motion aims to identify training that will successfully boost cultural competency and grow a cadet’s awareness of implicit bias.
“We are facing a crisis of confidence with our law enforcement agencies, particularly in communities of color,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This is an unprecedented moment in the history of our nation,” the Supervisor said.
Over a dozen individuals testified in support of the motion at the board meeting and called for improved officer training. Among those in attendance was Gilbert Johnson, an organizer with Community Coalition and a life-long resident of South Los Angeles.
“The culture of the Sheriff’s Department must dramatically change to repair the damage to the Sheriff’s reputation in the community,” said Johnson.
The motion indicates that implicit racial bias can cause institutions or individuals to act on racial prejudices unknowingly, even in spite of good intentions and nondiscriminatory policies or standards.
“Bias in policing whether implicit or explicit is tremendously damaging to our society,” said Catherine Wagner, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California during her testimony before the board.
“We must challenge the insidious perception that criminal and dangerous are synonymous with black people and people of color,” said advocate Alex Johnson, the executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund of California.
The motion passed by the board recommends mandated law enforcement protocols and training to examine an individual’s limitations with cultural competency. For years, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has been providing forums to foster interaction between law enforcement officers and community members, such as a series of locally organized “National Night Out” events in early August 2016. Improved training has the potential to further support these interactions.
“Any training that gives law enforcement the ability to connect with the community is very worthwhile,” said Don Pedersen, Assistant Inspector General for Los Angeles County.
The motion seeks to look more broadly at public safety and seeks to identify any gaps that may exist in officer training that can serve as a model to improve public safety and minimize tragic encounters. The supervisors directed the Sheriff’s Department, representatives with the offices of Probation, Public Defender, District Attorney, Fire Department, Superior Court and the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and all public safety departments to report back in 45 days on training related to implicit bias. A second report on national best practices is expected within three months.
“Together, we will work to build a transparent system of law enforcement and become a national model for constitutional policing in the 21st century,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.