A special task force created by the Beverly Hills Police Department to crack down on crime along its iconic Rodeo Drive is under fire for overwhelmingly arresting Black shoppers during its two-month existence.
Records obtained by the Los Angeles Times found that of the 90 people arrested by the department’s “Rodeo Drive Team” in 2020, 80 of them were Black. The newspaper’s findings come after civil rights attorney Ben Crump and L.A.-based attorney Bradley Gage filed a lawsuit on behalf of two of the people arrested by the special team of officers on allegations of racial profiling.
Gage told the Times that the arrest records only strengthens their case against the department:
“Even going by their numbers — 80 out of 90 arrested are Black. That’s ridiculous. You have to be purposely targeting Black people to begin with.”
According to the Times, Beverly Hills police created the Rodeo Drive Team last summer primarily to tackle “quality of life complaints” (like loud music and cannabis smoking) in addition to a noted rise in car thefts and armed robberies reported in the area. Not too long after its formation, per the Times, the team then turned its focus to preventing people from going on spending sprees with money they illegally received by defrauding California’s unemployment system.
During a news conference announcing their lawsuit against the police department, Gage and Crump pointed out that all but one of the people arrested for the aforementioned quality of life violations were Black. As for the 107 people who were overall arrested on suspicion that they were scamming the unemployment system, the Times reports, eight out of nine of them were Black.
A city spokesman declined to explain to the newspaper how any of these people came under suspicion of fraud in the first place and did not address why they were disproportionally Black:
In a statement to The Times, he said only that “the department’s practice is to contact and question individuals when it is believed they may be involved in criminal activity or another violation of the law” and that the Rodeo Drive unit was “protecting the constitutional rights of all people.”
Per KTLA’s coverage of last month’s news conference announcing the lawsuit against the BHPD, plaintiffs Jasmine Williams and Khalil White said they were vacationing from Philadelphia when officers detained them on Rodeo Drive.
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The two were riding a scooter on a sidewalk when they were detained by officers, who handcuffed and later arrested them “on multiple fabricated charges” that were later dropped, according to the complaint.
White said he had to spend the night in jail and pay a $25,000 bond.
Both White and Williams said the ordeal was traumatizing.
I was scared,” Williams said in the news conference. “I’ve never been to jail in my life. So for me to be in here — to go from me being on vacation, to having my freedom snatched from me [in] a second — it was horrifying.”
After Crump’s news conference, the Beverly Hills Police Department put out a statement from Chief Dominick Rivetti saying that White and Williams were taken into custody after they were found riding a scooter on the sidewalk for a second time after having previously been warned.
The Rodeo Drive Team was formed in August 2020 and disbanded two months later in October, according to the Times.