Policing in Los Angeles and the issue of racial profiling

Lily Khadjavi
Loyola Marymount University

Although racial profiling is not legal, polls indicate that most Americans believe it is a regular police practice, a perception so common that the practice of stopping a driver of color has been nicknamed by some as a DWB, or ''Driving while black or brown.'' The nature of these stops--and any perception of bias--is of paramount importance in understanding relationships between law enforcement and local communities, especially in communities of color.

Data which were collected by the Los Angeles Police Department under a Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice provide a prime opportunity to better understand police practice, well beyond counting who is stopped. Every year over 800,000 stops are made by the police in the city of Los Angeles; an empirical snapshot reveals search and frisk rates far exceeding the national average. We look at the story this data tells us and consider these stops with regard to Fourth Amendment police practice. For example, when a driver is pulled over, the stop may include a frisk or search but only if certain legal criteria are satisfied. Who is searched, and under what basis? Are particular drivers asked to consent to a search, thereby waiving their Fourth Amendment rights? Who declines? Statistical analysis not only illuminates racial and ethnic disparities in stops, frisks, searches, and outcomes, but also points to concrete policy recommendations.

BIO: Lily Khadjavi is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and her PhD in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley, and she has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia; U.C. Berkeley; and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Research and Evaluation Center in New York. She serves as a co-chair organizing the Infinite Possibilities Conference, which builds community for women of color in the mathematical sciences. Since 2013, she has taught in Caltech’s Freshman Summer Research Institute, working with underrepresented students, and the National Science Foundation has funded her work to support retention of underrepresented groups in mathematics, both for the Association of Women in Mathematics and for the Infinite Possibilities Conference. Dr. Khadjavi serves on the boards of Building Diversity in Science and the Harvard Gender and Sexuality Caucus.

Back to Latinx in the Mathematical Sciences Conference 2018