As the Los Angeles Police Department strives to improve tenuous relations with the city’s communities of color, the department is struggling to strike a balance between under and over-policing South Los Angeles.
In 2015, following an uptick in violent crime, the LAPD expanded its elite Metropolitan Division by hundreds of officers. At the beginning of 2016, a spike in homicides in particular led LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to shift Metro officers over to South LA, where almost half of violent gun crimes occur.
Several months after the influx of Metro cops, South LA experienced fewer murders (compared with the previous year). The department responded to better stats by reducing its presence in the area. But then violent crime rates crept back up, and more Metro officers were sent into South LA again.
The strong presence of the Metro officers—and the frequent stops they make—has caused resentment among some community members who say they feel racially profiled by the Metro cops, and would rather see an increase LAPD foot patrols focused on building better relationships between residents and officers.
“It’s wonderful to have help, but it hurts us because the [Metro officers] don’t know us,” Danielle Strickland, a member of the Southwest Area Neighborhood Development Council, said at a recent meeting.
(The LAPD does have some foot patrol officers walking in certain LA neighborhoods, including in South LA.)
The Metro officers say they are trying to build rapport and a sense of “partnership” with the community they patrol. And LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said that murder and gang crime is “much more detrimental to the neighborhood than the occasional stop by police officers that results in no action.”
Cindy Chang presents the issue from the dual perspectives of law enforcement and residents in a story for the LA Times.
For further reading on the complex problem, in her 2015 book, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, Jill Leovy shines a light on homicide in Los Angeles and across the country, particularly young men of color killing other young men of color, breakdowns in the criminal justice system, and why so many of these murders go unsolved.