Cops and Critics Clash Over New Limits on LAPD ‘Pretextual Stops’

Officers say there should be no limits on ’pretextual stops’ in Los Angeles and critics say they should be banned.

The Los Angeles Police Commission adopted a new policy Tuesday intended to stop LAPD officers from using minor infractions as a pretext to investigate motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists for more serious crimes without first having information to justify it.

Police unions say the rule will hinder cops’ ability to maintain safety in the city, while critics contend that the policy is too vague and that the “pretextual stops” should be banned outright.

Under the new policy, approved unanimously by the five-member body, police may only make such stops when they “are acting upon articulable information” and not a “mere hunch or on generalized characteristics such as a person’s race, gender, age, homeless circumstance, or presence in a high-crime location.”

Additionally, police officers must now record themselves on their body-cams as they state their reasons for suspecting a more serious crime has occurred, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Officers who fail to follow the new protocols will face “progressive discipline beginning with counseling and retraining.”

The policy does not spell out what kind of information—or how much—would actually justify an officer making a stop. Rather, cops must use their “training, experience and expertise.” Police are also barred from stopping people for minor violations unless a violation “significantly interferes with public safety,” but the policy does not define which violations meet that standard.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said at Tuesday’s meeting that immediate enforcement of the new procedures could cause widespread confusion because officers have not had sufficient time to be trained in them.

Commission President William Briggs said that there “is no data that anyone can point to that establishes pretextual stops curtail violent crime in our city,” citing a 2019 Times report that found that the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division stopped Black drivers at a rate more than five times their share of the city’s population, and that Black and Latino drivers were stopped more often than white drivers despite being less likely to have contraband on them.

“The current practice of pretextual stops only serves to alienate whole segments of our community from law enforcement,” Briggs said.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing rank-and-file LAPD officers, countered that the policy threatens public safety, and that the process the commission followed to change the rules violated its collective bargaining agreement with the city. The union added that it is considering legal options to challenge the new policy, the Times reports.

In a statement, the union said Briggs “should get off his soapbox, do his homework and tell the truth about pretext stops and the important role they play in taking guns off our streets.”

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