January 19, 2023

By Marsha Mitchell

Contributing Writer


Each day in LA, mental and physical violence happens to Black drivers during traffic stops by law enforcement. Taking law enforcement out of traffic stops could have literally saved Keenan Anderson’s life. Anderson, a teacher visiting Los Angeles from Washington D.C., was involved in a car accident on January 3rd at the intersection of Venice and Lincoln Boulevards. When law enforcement arrived, Keenan asked for help from the officer--having just been in a car accident. Instead of assistance, he was tased ten times and brutalized while being forced to the ground.

He was terrorized and traumatized as he realized he was in a similar position to George Floyd. Hours later, he too lay dead, in a hospital, after going into cardiac arrest, presumably because he was tased repeatedly.

Traffic stops are the most common way that residents come into contact with law enforcement. National data has shown that roughly 10% of killings by police each year start with a traffic encounter. Time and again, across the U.S., we have seen black men and women lose their lives for what would have been a routine traffic ticket for others. Incidents like the tragic death of Sandra Bland, Daunte Wright, who was stopped for having expired plates and lost his life when the officer-involved shot and killed him after she allegedly drew her weapon, which she thought was her taser, continue to happen all over the country. 

Here in Los Angeles in October of 2019, The LA Times published a major data-driven story revealing that LAPD officers search Black & Latinx drivers at rates of more than 4 to 1 and 3 to 1 compared to white drivers, despite finding higher rates of contraband among white drivers. Many of these searches happened during traffic stops on the pretext the driver had a minor equipment violation. The paper’s investigation revealed that 24% of black drivers and passengers were searched across Los Angeles, compared with 16% of Latinos and 5% of whites, during a recent 10-month period. Blacks make up less than 9% of the city’s population. 

Investigators also found that 270 Metro officers—about 2% of the LAPD—have been deployed for hot-spot policing primarily in communities of color and made 60,000 vehicle stops per year (11% of LAPD’s total stops). Many of these searches happened for minor equipment violations. 

Shortly after the data came out from the Los Angeles Times investigation, Community Coalition (CoCo) joined with 14 other groups to form Promoting Unity Safety and Health in Los Angeles—PUSH LA. This cross-sector coalition consists of base building, advocacy, religious/ interfaith, and labor organizations that have come together to demand an end to the racial profiling that has gone on for decades in our communities. As a collective, we are also trying to find viable solutions to “driving while black and brown” that remove armed police officers from traffic duties. CoCo believes one way to do that is to use civilian employees from the Department of Transportation (LADOT) to conduct traffic stops instead of LAPD. 

PUSHLA is currently working with LA’s City Council to research this possibility. But the group also demands:

1. Law enforcement is taken out of all traffic stops.

2. Officers who engage in unwarranted pretextual stops be disciplined and removed from our communities.

3. LAPD officially and publicly admits to racial profiling and apologizes to all residents of South LA and elsewhere in the city who’ve been unjustly stopped and searched.

Marsha Mitchell is the Director of Communications for Community Coalition.

Category: Opinion