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Race & Justice News: Los Angeles Discontinues a Predictive-Policing Program

May 11, 2020
Los Angeles ends its predictive-policing program viewed as biased, African Americans face disproportionate arrest rates for marijuana possession, African and Caribbean immigrants disproportionately isolated in ICE custody, and more in Race & Justice News.

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Los Angeles Ends Predictive-Policing Program Viewed as Biased

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore announced the end of the department’s use of a controversial program that predicts where property crimes would occur throughout the city, reports the Los Angeles Times. While critics had argued that the predictive-policing program, Pred-Pol, unfairly led to heavier policing of communities of color, Moore had defended it against charges of bias. A few months earlier, the department changed the program after an inspector general couldn’t determine whether it helped reduce crime. The announced changes included “creating a data-driven policing unit to oversee all crime-fighting strategies and seeking input from various community groups before implementing new data programs,” as well as closer tracking of outcomes.

Moore attributed the discontinuation of Pred-Pol to financial constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic, saying it was “a hard decision.” Other departments’ past experience with the program also led them to discontinue its use. Hamid Khan of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition attributed the decision to community organizing and said, “This is community power that shows we can dismantle it and stop these egregious tactics.”

African Americans Face Disproportionate Arrest Rates for Marijuana Possession

An ACLU research report finds that while marijuana possession arrests decreased nationwide between 2010 and 2018, trends in racial disparities remained the same. The report, “A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform,” found that African Americans were 3.64 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites, despite similar rates of marijuana use. In over 30 states, racial disparities in such arrests were larger in 2018 than they were in 2010 and blacks were still more likely to be arrested than whites in states where marijuana has been legalized. While police reduced marijuana arrests by 18% between 2010 and 2018, they made nearly 700,000 such arrests in 2018, accounting for more than 43% of all drug arrests.

Some states that have legalized marijuana have enacted reforms that expunge prior marijuana convictions or allow for resentencing, but the outcomes of those changes have not been determined. In other states, communities of color are still adversely impacted by biased policies and “because of this history, racial justice remains a critical prism through which drug reform policies should be evaluated.” The ACLU recommends that federal and state governments legalize marijuana for people aged 21 or older and address the harms that marijuana prohibition has caused on communities of color.

African and Caribbean Immigrants Disproportionately Isolated in ICE Custody

Immigrants from African and Caribbean countries who have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) face a higher rate of being placed in solitary confinement, according to a working paper from University of California researchers. Immigrants from these countries comprised only 4% of people in ICE custody from 2013 to 2017, but they made up 24% of solitary confinement cases. Study authors Konrad Franco, Caitlin Patler, and Keramet Reiter relied on data from the Department of Homeland Security collected by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

“The treatment of black immigrants in detention mirrors that of black individuals in jails and prisons,” said Reiter. The authors write that “while a major national and international movement is curbing both the frequency and duration of solitary confinement placements in prisons … no such curbs exist on solitary confinement use in immigration detention,” and ICE’s revised 2019 National Detention Standards may exacerbate these racial inequities. They found that ICE isolated individuals for an average of 43 days, with 3% of cases lasting more than 6 months.

Federal Court Rules that Records in Unsolved 1946 Lynching Case Remain Sealed

“A federal appeals court has ruled that grand jury evidence long sought by civil rights activists and historians in a 1946 mass lynching case in rural Georgia must remain sealed,” reports Neil Vigdor for the New York Times. The case involved the unsolved murders of two African American couples in 1946 by a mob of white men in Walton County, GA— 60 miles east of Atlanta. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta voted 8-4 that federal judges do not have the authority to unseal federal grand jury records, with certain exceptions. The decision reversed a lower court’s 2017 ruling, which had been affirmed in 2019 by a three-judge panel of the circuit court that heard the case after the Justice Department appealed the lower court’s decision. 

Funerals of George Dorsey and his sister, Dorothy Dorsey Malcolm. Photograph provided by Southern Poverty Law Center.

Funerals of George Dorsey and his sister, Dorothy Dorsey Malcolm. Photograph provided by Southern Poverty Law Center.

The victims of what became known as the Moore’s Ford Bridge lynchings, believed to one of the last mass lynchings in U.S. history, were siblings George Dorsey and Dorothy Dorsey Malcolm and their spouses Mae Murray Dorsey and Roger Malcom. Historian Anthony Pitch had sued for the release of the records and since his death last year, his widow Marion Pitch, author of a book on the lynchings, has continued the struggle. Historian Laura Wexler, who has also authored a book on this event, explained: “Not being able to see those grand jury documents means there’s so many things we don’t know….How the hell was nobody indicted in this?” Attorney Joseph J. Bell Jr. plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 2011 letter to a judicial rules committee, then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder argued that federal courts should be permitted to disclose grand jury materials of great historical significance.

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