Responding to a lawsuit alleging racial bias among officers cracking down on crime on Rodeo Drive, the Beverly Hills police chief said Wednesday the two Black plaintiffs who claim they were profiled when they were arrested for riding a scooter on a sidewalk were previously warned the activity was prohibited.
Chief Dominick Rivetti also said the department created the Rodeo Drive Team to thwart a spike in crime along the famed shopping street, and he denied any racial bias by the officers involved.
“These calls included burglaries, shoplifting, pedestrian and vehicle code violations, street gambling, public intoxication, marijuana smoking and more,” Rivetti said in a statement. “This rise in crime during the pandemic and following months of civil unrest was not unique to Beverly Hills.”
In five weeks, the Rodeo Drive Team recovered 13 loaded firearms from individuals on Rodeo Drive, which he said was unprecedented for the city. He also said officers recovered more than $250,000 in cash and fraudulent EDD cards with a potential value of $3 million dollars.
Lawyers for Jasmine Williams and Khalil White, including civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, held a news conference Wednesday to bring attention to the couple’s proposed class-action complaint. The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, copies of which were obtained Tuesday by City News Service, alleges that Rodeo Drive Team leader Capt. Scott Dowling’s efforts to make the city safer ended up with 105 out of 106 of the arrestees being Black. The civil rights suit seeks unspecified damages.
“You had to be intentional to try to arrest (that) many Black people in Beverly Hills,” Crump said at the news conference. “The demographics show that there are not many Black people who live in Beverly Hills.”
He said the people arrested during the team’s operation were detained for “being Black on Rodeo Drive.”
The only person arrested who was not Black was a Latino who appeared Black, according to the suit. The court papers allege that Dowling referred to Black people as “lazy” and laughed after viewing a video titled “Yellow Fever With Soul” that was made by two Beverly Hills officers in 2015 and poked fun at Blacks and Asians.
Many of those detained during the program were simply riding roller skates or scooters, and Dowling ordered those on his team to arrest and interrogate Black people who traveled on Rodeo Drive, according to the suit.
“While African-Americans as a class were arrested for such actions, Caucasians … who engaged in the same actions were not arrested,” the suit states. “Thus, the defendants engaged in racial profiling.”
Williams and White, while visiting Beverly Hills last Sept. 7, were riding a scooter and “protesting the unlawful detention and citing the continuous racial targeting of individuals of color” when they were handcuffed and arrested on “multiple fabricated charges,” according to the suit
Prosecutors later declined to file charges against the plaintiffs, the suit states.
Rivetti said White and Williams were warned that riding a scooter on a sidewalk in Beverly Hills was prohibited and they were not detained the first time, but they were taken into custody when they allegedly committed the same violation later and gave false information to a police officer.
Rivetti did not address the alleged numbers of arrests of Black people during the team’s operation, but he denied that race played a factor.
“The women and men of BHPD take an oath to protect human life and enforce the law — regardless of race,” the chief said. “Any violation of this pledge is contrary to the values of this department. We take all concerns regarding the conduct of our officers very seriously.”