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LA City Council Adopts Ferguson-Like Citation Program

Patty Bellasalma: This week the Los Angeles City Council voted to adopt Ferguson like “quality of life” violations ignoring the dangers of unfettered police power to communities of color in order to increase city coffers.
Criminal Justice v Social Justice

This week the Los Angeles City Council voted to adopt Ferguson like “quality of life” violations ignoring the dangers of unfettered police power to communities of color in order to increase city coffers. We urge Mayor Garcetti to veto this ill-conceived program.

The Los Angeles City Council moved ahead showing a stunning lack of context or concern in adopting a revenue generating scheme that not only mirrors Ferguson’s now infamous ticketing policies, but also mirrors the Truancy ticket policy that the Los Angeles School District rescinded only last month.

This pilot program called Administrative Citation Enforcement includes a laundry list of highly subjective offenses that will now also include discretionary financial penalties. The wide discretionary power given to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Department of Animal Control officers includes the option to give a warning, issue a financial fine, or make a misdemeanor arrest.

We could find no comments or concerns regarding the risk of discriminatory enforcement by council members. An absence, by the City Council that is extraordinary, given Los Angeles’ history, including enforcement of the Truancy ticket policy; and the issues exposed in Ferguson Missouri.

Even more egregious is the Los Angeles City Council’s failure to connect the ACE policy with City Attorney Mike Feuer’s Neighborhood Restorative Justice pilot program. Such failures evidence a level of disregard for discriminatory enforcement that should shock the conscious.

Ironically, and prophetically, the LA Times reported on the council’s ACE policy in the same section that reported on the latest MacArthur genius grant recipient, Stanford researcher Jennifer Eberhardt, whose work centers on the devastating effects implicit racial bias has on institutions such as city councils, and the criminal justice system.

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Jennifer Eberhardt, who is currently advising police on how implicit bias negatively impacts their policing was obviously not consulted about the Los Angeles City Council’s ACE program. Mayor Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer should correct this grievous oversight.

Every single member of the Los Angeles City Council has amply demonstrated the need to address implicit bias in their decision-making process. The failure of the Los Angeles City Council as a whole to address implicit bias in discretionary acts has and will continue to have grave effects on communities of color. Eberhardt’s work consistently shows the devastating effects of implicit bias in every facet of our society, including prosecution and law enforcement.

During the past few decades, punitive crime policies have led to explosive growth in the United States prison population. Such policies have contributed to unprecedented incarceration rates for Blacks in particular. In this article, we consider an unexamined relationship between racial disparities and policy reform. Rather than treating racial disparities as an outcome to be measured, we exposed people to real and extreme racial disparities and observed how this drove their support for harsh criminal-justice policies. In two experiments, we manipulated the racial composition of prisons: When the penal institution was represented as “more Black,” people were more concerned about crime and expressed greater acceptance of punitive policies than when the penal institution was represented as “less Black.” Exposure to extreme racial disparities, then, can lead people to support the very policies that produce those disparities, thus perpetuating a vicious cycle.

This state of the art work on implicit bias and policing should be recognized and utilized within every facet of Los Angeles City government. Full implementation of this lifesaving and life altering science for communities of color should be a priority for LA City Council, but instead, the LA City Council is seeking to implement a discredited “broken windows” policy.

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Patty Bellasalma