The number of complaints filed by the public against the Los Angeles Police Department increased by about 8% last year, compared to the prior year, while the number of arrests went down, according to a report presented to the city Police Commission Tuesday.
According to the report, the number of complaints initiated by the public last year was 2,609, compared to 2,408 the previous year. In 2018, the LAPD responded to more than 1.11 million calls for service, up from nearly 1.05 million the previous year.
Overall complaints — including those initiated by the public and those generated internally — rose by nearly 11%, from 3,189 in 2017 to 3,535 last year.
Although complaints rose, total arrests dropped to 102,339 last year, down from 104,564 in 2017.
In 2018, 18 LAPD employees were terminated as a result of sustained complaints, while 151 were admonished, 109 were suspended and 102 faced no penalty, according to the report. Officials noted that some of the cases that reached disposition last year may have actually involved complaints from prior years, due to the length of investigations.
Commission Vice President Shane Murphy Goldsmith said she was concerned about the number of complaints for alleged “biased policing.” She noted that at least 475 such complaints were lodged in each of the past three years, but none of them were sustained. Complaints count all officers responding to the incident in question, officials said.
LAPD officials said they try to determine why biased-policing complaint are filed, and the investigation includes an examination of officers’ arrest records. They said there is a comprehensive process in determining whether a biased police complaint is valid.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said officers undergo background checks that include a search for any biased tendencies prior to being hired.
The rate of total sustained complaints was 5% in 2018, about the same as the last few years.
Murphy Goldsmith said she appreciated the department training officers to perform their duties objectively, but she would like to review the next biased-policing report in order to get to the “root causes” of such complaints.
Commissioners said they want to continue analyzing the data, which could lead to changes in complaint policies.
Moore said he was particularly encouraged by statistics regarding the usefulness of video from body-worn cameras.
According to the report, body-worn camera footage assisted investigators in determining the merits of a complaint more than 325 times last year — up from just 75 in 2016.
“We want to have time to review the video to make a determination on whether or not there’s any substance (to a complaint) or not,” Moore said. “If they can make that determination, it saves a great amount of time, when we talk about the discipline system. It saves a tremendous amount of time for supervisors to not have to investigate that complaint.”
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