On Tuesday, October 29th, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition held a press conference on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall to announce the passage of a historic motion by the LA City Human Relations Commission (HRC) to hold public hearings on the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) “Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) program, Gang Injunctions, and other public safety issues” with the overall theme centered around “profiling.” This will be one of the first local public hearing in the nation to focus on the government’s SAR program, which originated in Los Angeles and is now in 46 states across the country.
The motion, which was passed on October 10, 2013, also requires the HRC board to draft a letter to LAPD Commissioners, stating their “concerns regarding SAR, and the detrimental impact it has on various communities throughout the city,” and to “submit findings and recommendations upon completion of the hearings to HRC board.”
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition led the effort in advocating for these public hearings and acknowledges the HRC decision as a major step forward in bringing to light LAPD policies of surveillance and information gathering. The City Human Relations Commission’s decision came after dozens of community members shared their concerns with HRC about the dire impact of LAPD’s SAR policies such as racial profiling, invasion of privacy, and violation of civil liberties.
LAPD’s SAR program, known as Special Order 1 and the iWATCH “See Something, Say Something” programs require LAPD officers to open secret files and initiate formal investigations on people engaging in ordinary activities such as taking pictures, using binoculars, drawing diagrams, using video cameras, and taking notes. Notably, a March 2013 LA Office of the Inspector General audit of LAPD SAR program revealed that, out of a four month sample of race/descent data, over 82% of SARs were filed on individuals belonging to racial groups identified as non-white. The largest number of SARs were filed on African-Americans.
Carmina Ocampo, Staff Attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles said “The Suspicious Activity Reporting Program is troubling because it encourages racial and religious profiling, and also threatens to interfere with people’s rights to engage in constitutionally-protected activities.”
Jamie Garcia, R.N, a member of the Stop LAPD Spying coalition talked about waste of resources which could go to more useful initiatives like schools, jobs, and healthcare. “As a healthcare worker, I feel it is important for our communities to engage in these processes and ensure full transparency in policies that affect everyone’s health and wellbeing,” said Garcia.
Other speakers included Hamid Khan, an organizer from the Coalition; community member Erick Huerta ; Kim McGill, organizer from the Youth Justice Coalition – a member organization of the Coalition; and Pete White, Co-Director of Coalition member organization Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN).
After the press conference, the Coalition went to LAPD headquarters to testify before the Los Angeles Police Commission, including its new members appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. During public comment, coalition members called on the Police Commission to uphold the public trust and ensure that LAPD does not attempt to derail these public hearings that will be convened by the Human Relations Commission. Coalition members urged the Police Commission to direct the LAPD to operate with full transparency, honesty, and accountability in the HRC’s implementation of public hearings on the SAR program.
The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition invited the Los Angeles community–workers, families, and organizations–to engage in these hearings and take a step forward in educating the public on the systematic implementation of the surveillance state in our communities and neighborhoods.