LA police ordered to reduce controversial traffic stops

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (AP) - Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered police officers to scale back vehicle stops after a newspaper reported that a special unit is pulling over a disproportionate number of black motorists.

Police Chief Michel Moore said Thursday he hopes the Los Angeles Times report sparks a broader conversation about how best to interpret the data.

Garcetti in a statement Wednesday said he wants the department to prioritize other elements of the city's crime-reduction strategy, something Moore said has already happened.

A Times investigation found that the police force's Metropolitan Division officers deployed for crime-suppression in areas known for gun violence pull over black drivers at a rate well above their share of the population.

The data analyzed by the newspaper did not show why an officer pulled over a driver. The report does not contain information about whether a driver was searched, ticketed or arrested after the stop.

Moore said it's important to note that the data cannot prove that the unit's officers were engaged in racial profiling. If an officer only pulls someone over because he or she is black, that would warrant an investigation and possible disciplinary measures, he said.

Moore said he will meet with community members to discuss how police deployment along with gang intervention strategies and youth engagement programs have brought down street crime in South Los Angeles and other neighborhoods.

"Let's sit down and talk so we can have a broader conversation and interpret this information in a proper context, and not jump to conclusions," he said.

But, he added, "I'm not going to apologize for putting added police officers in areas with gun violence."

The mayor has called for an audit of the unit's traffic stops. A similar audit by the Police Department's inspector general is already underway.