Racial profiling is going on in Los Angeles. The police department has launched an extensive mapping program to map out where there are Muslim enclaves across the city. But is this the first time that racial profiling has been used in the city?
Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing defended the program by saying that it would help Muslim communities avoid the influence of those who would advocate extremism and violence. The program will take a look at look at the history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown, socioeconomic status and social interactions of certain neighbourhoods in the Los Angeles area. The program is still in its early stages and the full cost nor the final scope has been finalized.
At this point an estimated 500,000 Muslims in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties. Several Muslim and American Civil Liabilities groups have concerns about singling out individuals for data gathering based on their religious beliefs.
We are seeking to identify at-risk communities,” Downing said in an interview Thursday evening. “We are looking for communities and enclaves based on risk factors that are likely to become isolated. . . . We want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so we can reach out to those communities.”
Downing claims that the Muslim Public Affairs Council has embraced the program in concept. While not saying completely committing to the program as of yet program director Salam Al-Marayati has a meeting set up with the LAPD next week to learn more about the plan.
“We will work with the LAPD and give them input, while at the same time making sure that people’s civil liberties are protected,” said Al-Marayati, who commended Downing for being “very forthright in his engagement with the Muslim community.”
Much more of the Muslim community though is not happy at all with the planned directives of this program. Perhaps that could stem from comments like “a vicious, amorphous and unfamiliar adversary on our land” that Downing has stated when referring to the Muslim community.
ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston compared the program to the Red Scare of the 1950s and said: “This is nothing short of racial profiling.”
Downing says police enforcement officials across the world are dealing with radical Muslim groups that are isolated from the larger Muslim community. These smaller groups have the potential for breeding terror cells like the one that had plans to bomb Fort Dix.
“We want to map the locations of these closed, vulnerable communities, and in partnership with these communities . . . help [weave] these enclaves into the fabric of the larger society,” he said in his testimony.
“To do this, we need to go into the community and get to know peoples’ names,” he said. “We need to walk into homes, neighborhoods, mosques and businesses.”
Al-Marayati believes that Downing is working in good faith but is he a strong enough advocate for the rest of the Los Angeles area to back this program? Could this program be a much larger problem than the radical terrorists that is hoped to be tracked?
Of course this isn’t the first time that L.A. has dealt with racial profiling. In 2001 they collected information on the racial background of all persons who were stopped even though the LAPD had no means to process the information. The reasoning was to prove that the LAPD was not profiling persons who were stopped more than others.
“There is a perception that certain racial groups are stopped over others,” said LAPD Capt. Michael Chambers, a member of a task force on the consent decree. “The city is being responsive to determine if that is so.”
Since 2001 the LAPD has had officers fill out report forms of the the race, ethnicity, gender and age of a person of every person that is stopped in either a vehicle or on foot. The officer is also required to give all persons stopped a business card with their serial number on it as a receipt of the date and time that they were stopped. The information obtained in the original degree was required to be put on their website at lapdonline.org.
Since 2003 the LAPD has been vigilant when it comes to terrorism. The Terrorist Threat Assessment Center has had a phone number in place at (877) A-THREAT. People were reminded that: “Being Islamic or of Middle Eastern descent, or a Sikh or someone who wears traditional garb, is not in and of itself suspicious,” John Miller, who is head of the LAPD’s Homeland Security Bureau said.
The police in Los Angeles have a bad history when it comes to racial profiling. At one time or another Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Arabs have all been profiled and had to endure the reverse of innocent until proven guilty. The colour of one’s skin or the religious beliefs that a person adheres to in times where fear rules makes for a bigoted view in criminal matters.