Sunday, March 14, 2010

Torrance California Police Stop Again Casts Ugly Glare on Racial Profiling

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The throng of angry whites jeered, catcalled, and spat out borderline racial insults at the small group of mostly black protestors. This wasn’t a march against Jim Crow in Montgomery, Birmingham, Jackson, Mississippi, or Cicero, The year wasn’t 1963. The charged racial confrontation happened on March 14, 2010 in the self-billed All-American, mostly white Los Angeles suburban bedroom city of Torrance, California. The march was called to protest the unwarranted stop, search and harassment of Robert Taylor, a prominent Los Angeles African-American minister and civic leader by two white Torrance police officers on March 4. Following the stop, there were hundreds of outraged letters many filled with vile, crude, and profane racist pot shots at blacks, in local newspapers blasting Taylor and civil rights supporters.
The Taylor stop fit the all too familiar pattern of many unwarranted stops of black and Latino motorists. Torrance police officials claimed that he and the car he drove allegedly fit the description of a suspect and car involved in a robbery and assault a day earlier.

The problem is Taylor is not even remotely close in appearance to the description of the suspect. The picture circulated was of a short, stocky dark complexioned 30ish black male. Taylor is tall, in his 60s, and light complexioned.
Predictably, as in most racial profiling allegations, Torrance police and city officials hotly denied the profiling charge. They justified it with the stock story that crime is on the rise in the city, but offered no compelling stats to back up that claim. Taylor’s stop would have likely ignited the usual finger pointing, charge swapping, and then faded fast except for one thing. Torrance has been slapped with a Justice Department lawsuit, civil rights lawsuits, court settlements, and hundreds of verbal complaints over the years by black and Latino motorists, shoppers, African-American mail carriers some in full uniform that work at postal stations in Torrance, and residents such as Taylor who allege they were racially profiled.

Torrance is hardly unique. The past decade, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and other big and small cities have repeatedly been called on the carpet for alleged racial profiling. In an address to a joint session of Congress in 2001, then President Bush blasted racial profiling, "It’s wrong and we will end it in America." It hasn’t

The refusal to admit that racial profiling exists by many public officials and many in law enforcement has done much to torpedo nearly every effort by local and national civil rights and civil liberties groups to get law enforcement and federal agencies not only to admit that racial profiling happens but to do something about it. The throng of white protestors that harangued the blacks and other supporters who protested the Taylor stop in Torrance was ample proof of that.

A perennial federal bill served up by House Democrat John Conyers to get federal agencies to collect stats and do reports on racial profiling hasn't gotten to first base. A similar racial profiling bill met a similar fate in California in 1999. The bill passed by the state legislature mandated that law enforcement agencies compile racial stats on traffic stops. It was promptly vetoed by then Democratic governor Gray Davis.
Despite Davis’s veto, nearly 60 California city and county police departments, the California Highway Patrol, and University of California police agencies either through mandatory federal consent decrees or voluntarily collect date on unwarranted traffic stops of motorist and contacts civilian to determine if there is a racial bent to the stops. Torrance is not one of those cities.

Nationally, 46 states collect data either voluntarily or compelled by state law on unwarranted pedestrian contacts and traffic stops. Most police officials, as in Torrance, loudly contend that good police work is about the business of catching criminals and reducing crime, not about profiling blacks and Latinos. If more black and Latino men are stopped it's not because they're black or Latino but because they commit more crimes. The other even more problematic tact used to debunk racial profiling is the few statistics that have been compiled on unwarranted stops. In this case not by police agencies but based on citizen responses. In two surveys, the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics took a hard, long quantified look at racial profiling using information that it got from citizens. Both times, the agency found that while whites are stopped, searched and arrested far less than blacks or Latinos, there was no hard proof that the stops had anything to do with race.
This has done even more to damp down a public outcry to get police agencies and legislators to admit that racial profiling is a fact on many city streets and highways and then to take firm action to eliminate it.

The arrest last July of Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gate's touched off a brief furor over racial profiling. Taylor’s stop and search has done the same in a bedroom Southern California city. It has again cast the ugly glare on the always troubling problem of racial profiling.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His nationally heard public issues talk show is on KTYM-AM 1460 AM Los Angeles Friday 9:30 AM and KPFK Pacifica Radio 90.7 Los Angeles Saturday Noon PST.


Anonymous said...

I worked in Torrance for 5 years, at a business on the corner of 190th and Crenshaw. I was stopped by a peace officer in the parking lot of my job after returning from lunch with a co-worker. The officer asked me two questions,Where was I coming from, and where was I going? I responded with the facts. He then says to me "Well, the reason that I pulled you over was because I got a call...". I anxiously awaited for the rest of his explanation, but there wasn't one. He handed me my license and just walked away. I was guilty of one thing and we refer to it as DWB. Driving While Black, which is evidently grounds for a stop by a police office in the city of Torrance.

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kluvgod said...

If you controled the entire country.You and fantasy riddled followers would still be crying discrimination.why don't we move forward and make our own way instead of looking for a special deal because of skin color or ethnic sir are the cause of your own accusations.

Viqtorino said...

Mr. Hutchinson,

You have spun this baseless incident to propogate your racial demagoguery. My response to your demagogic screed is viewable via the link below.

Anonymous said...

My friend pulled over for inopt licnse plate light bulb after which arrested as simialer robbery suspect then that robbery he was arresred for was droped and then he was charged with 18 new robbery's, he was told by torrance pd that in all the robbery's the suspect wore masks but they stopped him because he looked like the robbers. suspect discripion was hispanic 20-25 yrs old with a hispanic accent according to the witnesses he is a light skined black man in his late 30's no hispanic accent.
I would like to discuss with you any options to help my friend he is still in jail and has been for over a year. If you can help me please email me at
thank you

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Anonymous said...

BSL1123 is the profile name of member of the website. In one discussion about coffee he brags that he gets free coffee from a Starbucks where he arrested a subject for trespassing. BSL1123's comments.

"Who has the best coffee in town? I have a few different choices, depending on the day, and the shift. I susually take my own if I'm doing the Graves, but if I'm on days or swings, I hit up the Starbucks. I get the Hookup, so it's free ( I removed a stalker for the Barist girl and trespassed him). So, who does it for you?
As for the price of starbucks, it is a little high, but like I said, I get it free, and my favorite of anything is the free version. I was getting my "once a month" dose, when the girl making the coffee told me about the Stalker guy. Turns out he was certifiable. He went bye bye, and I get free coffee (of my choice) whenever she is working."

Redlight said...

His profile name BSL1123 is a play on The town he works in, Boiling Spring Lakes, NC. 1123 is his police call sign while he is on patrol. His first name is Jason according to his posts on policelink

theSarge said...

Isn't that Officer Jason Collins?