Racial Profiling Rears Its Ugly Head in Torrance, CA

New America Media, Commentary, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: Mar 15, 2010

TORRANCE, Calif.--The throng of angry whites jeered, catcalled, and spat out borderline racial insults at the small group of mostly black protestors. This wasnt a march against Jim Crow in Montgomery, Birmingham, Jackson, Mississippi, or Cicero. The year wasnt 1963. The charged racial confrontation happened on March 14, 2010, in the self-billed all-American, mostly white Los Angeles suburban bedroom city of Torrance, Calif.

The march was called to protest the unwarranted stop, search and harassment of Robert Taylor, a prominent Los Angeles African-American minister and civic leader by two white Torrance police officers on March 4. Following the stop, hundreds of outraged letters--many filled with vile, crude, and profane racist pot shots at blacks--appeared in local newspapers blasting Taylor and civil rights supporters.

The Taylor stop fit the all-too-familiar pattern of many unwarranted stops of black and Latino motorists. Torrance police officials claimed that he and the car he drove allegedly fit the description of a suspect and car involved in a robbery and assault a day earlier. The problem is, Taylor is not even remotely close in appearance to the description of the suspect. The picture circulated was of a short, stocky, dark-complexioned 30ish black male. Taylor is tall, in his 60s, and light complexioned.

Predictably, as in most racial profiling allegations, Torrance police and city officials hotly denied the profiling charge. They justified it with the stock story that crime is on the rise in the city, but offered no compelling statistics to back up that claim. Taylors stop likely would have ignited the usual finger pointing, charge swapping, and then faded fast--except for one thing. The city of Torrance has been slapped with a Justice Department lawsuit, civil rights lawsuits, court settlements, and hundreds of verbal complaints over the years by black and Latino motorists, shoppers, African-American mail carriers--some in full uniform that work at postal stations in Torrance--and residents such as Taylor who allege that they were racially profiled.

Torrance is hardly unique. In the past decade, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and other big and small cities have repeatedly been called on the carpet for alleged racial profiling. In an address to a joint session of Congress in 2001, then President George W. Bush blasted racial profiling, saying, "Its wrong and we will end it in America." It hasnt ended.

The refusal by many public officials to admit that racial profiling exists has helped torpedo efforts by local and national civil rights groups to get law enforcement to do something about it. The throng of white protestors that harangued the blacks and other supporters who were protesting the Taylor stop in Torrance was ample proof of that.

A perennial federal bill served up by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to get federal agencies to collect stats and do reports on racial profiling hasn't gotten to first base. Another racial profiling bill met a similar fate in California in 1999. The bill passed by the state legislature mandated that law enforcement agencies compile racial stats on traffic stops. It was promptly vetoed by then-Governor Gray Davis.

Despite Daviss veto, nearly 60 California city and county police departments, the California Highway Patrol, and University of California police agencies--either voluntarily or through mandatory federal consent decrees--collect date on unwarranted traffic stops of motorist and civilian contacts to determine if there is a racial bent to the stops. Torrance is not one of those cities.

Nationally, 46 states collect data either voluntarily or compelled by state law on unwarranted pedestrian contacts and traffic stops. Most police officials, as in Torrance, loudly contend that good police work is about the business of catching criminals and reducing crime, not about profiling blacks and Latinos. If more black and Latino men are stopped, it's not because they're black or Latino but because they commit more crimes.

The other even more problematic tact used to debunk racial profiling is the few statistics that have been compiled on unwarranted stops. In two surveys, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics took a hard, long look at racial profiling using information that it got from citizens. Both times, the agency found that while whites are stopped, searched and arrested less frequently than blacks or Latinos, there was no hard proof that the stops had anything to do with race.

This has done even more to damp down a public outcry to get police agencies and legislators to admit that racial profiling is a fact, and to take firm action to eliminate it.

The arrest last July of Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates touched off a brief furor. Taylors stop and search has done the same in a bedroom Southern California city. It has again cast the ugly glare on the always troubling problem of racial profiling.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His nationally heard public issues talk show is on KTYM-AM 1460 AM Los Angeles Friday 9:30 AM and KPFK Pacifica Radio 90.7 Los Angeles Saturday Noon PST.

Page 1 of 1


User Comments

Victor on Mar 20, 2010 at 20:24:38 said:

A recent allegation of racial profiling against the Torrance Police Department of California is being used by ethnic-grievance mongers to cry discrimination and propagate racial demagoguery.

In March, Robert Taylor, an African American minister, was stopped in his car with his 15 year old daughter by two white police officers in Torrance, CA. The officers were searching for two black kidnapping suspects – one a male and one a female. Once the officers determined that he and his daughter were not the assailants, Taylor filed a complaint against the TDP alleging that he was stopped “without just cause”. Taylor later groused that he felt “raped” and humiliated in front of his neighbors. A street protest in the mostly white city of Torrance ensued.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a political analyst and author, has ceased this incident a springboard from which to preach to the black choir and dishonestly stoke racial indignation.

In his article titled “Racial Profiling Rears its Ugly Head in Torrance, California”, Hutchinson dubiously argues the case for racial-profiling against Taylor, exaggerates a past scandal of the TDP, and describes a spurious account of the protest that followed.

In his screed, Hutchinson vehemently insists that the stop was “unwarranted” because Taylor looks nothing like the suspect. Hutchinson writes:

“…Taylor is not remotely close in appearance to the description of the suspect. The picture circulated was of a short, stocky, dark-complexioned 30ish black male. Taylor is tall, in his 60s, and light complexioned”.

The appearance-defense just doesn’t hold up. The photo circulated of the suspect (viewable on MercuryNews.com) shows a fuzzy, far away image of a black man dressed snazzily in a neck tie and dress shirt. From such a low quality photo, the actual age, skin tone, height, and build are of the man are practically indiscernible.

Coincidently, pictures and video footage of Taylor published by The Mercury News and available on Youtube show the reverend dressed to impress, sporting sharp suits garnished with pocket squares.

Hutchinson also fails to connect the vehicles driven by Taylor and the suspects as similar in appearance. Taylor was stopped in a white 1997 Ford Thunderbird with tinted windows. The suspects’ car? Also a white 1990-something Ford Thunderbird with tinted windows.

Torrance police did not stop Taylor simply because he is black. They stopped him because he has the same ethnicity, similar clothing style, and similar car – in a city whose black population is 2.19% – as the suspect. If glanced at from a distance while seated in a car, Taylor could easily be mistaken for the real suspect. The stop was completely warranted.

Since the circumstances surrounding the stop don’t go in his favor, Hutchinson then attempts to vilify the TDP by dredging up a past lawsuit imposed on them by the U.S. Department of Justice. When the suit is looked at more closely, it is not as incriminating as Hutchinson presents it to be.

The 1993 suit alleged the TDP of discrimination towards minorities in its employee recruitment procedures, citing racially biased recruitment tests and the maintenance of a racially hostile work environment. In 1995, however, a federal judge ruled that the government’s evidence was “insufficient to support its claim that there has been a pattern or practice of discrimination”. And In 1996, the Justice Department dropped its claim that the TPD maintained a hostile work environment.

Further crippling Hutchinson’s credibility is his exaggerated, untruthful account of the protest that followed the stop. In order to embolden the perception of white-on-black oppression and persecution, he purports:

“The throng of angry whites jeered, catcalled, and spat out borderline racial insults at the small group of mostly black protestors”.

The “racial insults” of which Hutchinson so mirthfully quips were nothing more than proclamations of support for the police. Protestors held up signs that read “We’ve Been Stopped Too. What’s Your Point?” and “I Love Torrance Police Department”. And the “jeers” and “catcalls” were comments such as “my motto is quit your sniveling!” and “I’m glad that the Torrance Police Department is so astute and conscientious to investigate a vehicle exactly the suspect vehicle”.

Also, Hutchinson’s “small group” group of angry blacks was just as big as the police-supporting protestors’. The Daily Breeze reports that there were “two groups of about 15 people each” that “met on opposite sides of a sunny street corner” (this can also be verified by counting the protestors in the propagandist video that Hutchinson posted on the protest in his Youtube account).

As it turns out that he and his mob of ethnic grievance mongers were not ganged up on by white racists, it was in fact Hutchinson and his shackle-rattlers that were the real harassers. He and his disciples threatened the Torrance community by chanting: “No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace!”

While the Torrance Police Department has been accused of racial misconduct in the past, it is Hutchinson who in this case is guilty of racial profiling; guilty of rushing to judgment; guilty of ignoring the facts; guilty of mentioning past litigations without delving into specifics.

More dangerous to America than racial discrimination are its baseless accusations that are then exploited by racial opportunists like as Hutchinson. Stick to fighting real racism instead of creating fake racism.

Zach on Mar 20, 2010 at 16:45:21 said:

I agree that this is a sensitive issue. What I oppose is Winograd using this for her political dog and pony show. Have you asked her about her civil liberties, 1st amendment problem she had while a teacher at the non-union Palisades Charter School? A Jewish student was given harassing treatment by Winograd for supporting our troops in Iraq. The Daily Breeze did a story on this. I too am a resident of Torrance and remember this story well. Or when she supported soldiers going AWOL and had students write letters of support for their insubordination. Or how about when Winograd in 2005, when she had students get together to blame the Jews for America's foreign policy. This woman is a reverse racist.

Winograd throwing herself in the fire on this issue demeans the purpose. Perhaps you should examine Winograd's civil liberties record first which may answer the question as to why she forced herself on this issue.

Above all else, you will be discredited by hanging your hat with Winograd without having her openly addressing her past. And that would be a disgrace to your cause if the allegations prove true.

Torrance Resident on Mar 18, 2010 at 13:33:37 said:

I am a Torrance Resident, born and raised and I am white. I have never been stopped by the police but my husband is black. He has no arrest record, no warrants, nothing. He is a hard working husband with two kids. But he is yound and black. He even drives safer than I do! We had a '93 Thunderbird and again, I have never been stopped by the police. In a 2 year time frame my husband as been stopped and/or followed at least 10 times by Torrance Police(sometimes by himself, sometimes with the kids in the car and sometimes with me in the car).

Most times the officers do not follow procedure: they don't ask for the car to be turned off or the radio down, they don't ask for registration or insurance and/or they don't tell us why we were stopped. You want to know the most outrageous thing? He has never been given a ticket because there was never any legal reason to pull him over.

Here are some incidents and you tell me if this is "normal police procedure".

1. Police made U-turn to get behind my husband (They saw him as they were driving towards him). Pulled us over right out front of our house. Right away asked us what are we doing - told officer we live right here we are coming home from shopping. Office asked for my husband's ID and my ID - why do you need the passenger ID? He went and ran our IDs which were clean and then told us that our tint was illegal - well guess what folks THERE IS NO TINT on the Thunderbird. None. Of course he didn't give us a ticket.

2. Same scenerio - police make U-turn and pull my husband over. Want to run his ID. Don't tell him why they are pulling him over until after they run his ID. They tell him the brake lights aren't working. Umm how did you see the back break lights when you where going the opposite way on the street? Of course no ticket was given. (Because there was no brake light problem).

3. Again, cops going opposite direction, see my husband, make a quick u-turn and immediately pull him over. Again, they just want ID. Never ask for registration or insurance. After his ID is cleared they say the middle back break light is out and they will give us a warning.

4. Many times he will get followed. I have seen it with my owns eyes. They see Thunderbird and Black Man and they make u-turns and weave in and out of traffic to get behind us. We have been followed for miles.

It's not just Torrance PD. The Sherriffs officers are getting just as bad.

We have a new car now. I minivan (again there is no tint on our windows). My husband was having stomach problems at around 9pm so he drove to Walgreens. Well the Sherriff made a u-turn and pulled him over. Didn't say why he pulled him over. I was not in the car but my husband put me on speaker as the officer went to run his ID so I heard the whole conversation when the office returned.

The officer wanted to know where my husband was going? Was he in a gang? where did he work? What times was he at work? Where does he hang out? How many kids to you have? what are their ages? A emergency contact number?

I never knew that it was legal for them to ask that many personal questions! After asking all those questions he says he pulled my husband over because the license plate light was out and gave him a ticket that's going to cost us at least $40 for a license plate light. I've been looking and some cars don't even have a light. It's my opinion that he gave a ticket because of all the questioning he put my husband through. He had to back it up with something so we couldn't file a harrassment suit.

Anyway I do believe after first hand witness that Torrance Police racially profile individuals. I think they believe that blacks and latinos do more crime so they are the first to pull over. They act upset that they can never find anything on my husband, like they thought they hit the jackpot when they saw a blackman in torrance.

Oh and it's not just driving. The Torrance police have stopped my husband when he used to ride his bicycle all the time. He stopped riding it because he was tired of always getting messed with. They would pull him over and go through his backpack and want to know where he was going (which most times it was to work). Again no tickets were ever given because they had no legal right to stop him in the first place!

Bier Summits on Mar 17, 2010 at 19:30:37 said:

How about while they are collecting, databasing, analyzing, categorizing and distributing all this data -- they include whether of not the person is in this country legally. Many claim illegal aliens are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime - the only way to prove or disprove this is to collect the information.

and... the woman that made the 911 call reporting a possible break in to the house that turned out to belong to Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates was threatened with death threats after it was suggested that she was racially profiling when she reported it . From the tape of the call she said nothing about race and when she was specifically asked to identify him by race she did not know. How this man became a professor in our educational system is unbelivealble.

== When you are a hammer - everything looks line a nail ==

Roger Courtney on Mar 15, 2010 at 18:16:23 said:

Black folks need to leave this sixties subject in the sixties and step up into the two thousands. Find something to do with your life, become producers and you won't have time for such foolishness.

Trea on Mar 15, 2010 at 17:03:22 said:

Why must people keep stirring the pot on this issue? That in itself is racism. You are only promoting your own agenda. I LIVE in Torrance and as a citizen here I can assure you that crime IS on the rise. The last decade has seen a huge increase.
I do not believe this was profiling. They were given a description of a car by a very shaken witness and his car fit that general description.

Kay Jay on Mar 15, 2010 at 12:25:34 said:

I think there should be a ferderal mandate for Localities to audit the record bases on population of minorities versus, jail population stats, amount of times a person have been stop, hiring practices by the department, and find out if the is a goverment bonus for extra stops. Sometimes stops are financially motivated by quotas bad judgement and selective enforcement against the poor and uneducated. A suspended drivers lincense is against the law but totally not a criminal act when the roads are paid for by all the tax payers, not just the poor. The ten commandments speak against bearing a false witness against a peron. See Isaiah 10; 1-2.

Joe on Mar 15, 2010 at 11:32:38 said:

I guess you and I were at different rallies. All bitter hatred was not coming from the Pro-police side but from across the street. But again, guess you cannot be responsible for your actions. Guess it is just another case of the "man" tryin to keep you down. Why is it that you only see racism as white against black? It goes all ways sir, not just against you. What about all the hoodrats who get pulled over for having no plates who drop the "you only pulled me over cause I'm black" comment. I see that as racist because without just cause they are making assumptions about the officers. It is really funny when they do this to a black officer.

So take you accusations and hate language and go where you are wanted. I assure you, that is not Torrance, CA. CLOWN

mike on Mar 15, 2010 at 10:35:01 said:

tinted windows could explain a stop, not a search of someone bearing no physical resemblance to the suspect. Way to play race cards yourself, joker.

wtf on Mar 15, 2010 at 09:16:56 said:

funny, you forgot to mention the tinted windows of the TBird. I'm sure once you become an officer you automatically gain super vision that enables you to see thruogh the tint and determine that this guy looks nothing like the guy they were looking for. way to play the race card you ignorant POS




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Criminal Justice


Advertisements on our website do not necessarily reflect the views or mission of New America Media, our affiliates or our funders.