Amidst the tensions between police departments and the citizens they are tasked with serving, a letter to the editor was published in the Culver City Crossroads on June 25 entitled ‘The CCPD’s Demonstrably Systemic Racism.’ Written by Culver City lawyer Annette Morasch, the letter detailed Morasch’s discoveries upon looking into the Culver City Police Department’s arrest records.
Morasch said she originally submitted a request for “all documents reflecting the race of every individual arrested by CCPD, and the reason for arrest.” The basis of this request was the California Public Records act, which was signed into law by then governor Ronald Reagan in 1968, and requires inspection or disclosure of governmental records to the public upon request, unless exempted by law.
This request was met by Lt. Troy Dunlap claiming that those records do not exist. In a joint statement released in response to the letter, CCPD and the Culver City city attorney’s office corroborated that statement, saying that “CCPD responded that it was unable to provide the requested data concerning persons stopped and detained, as that information was not documented or retained in CCPD’s records databases.”
Morasch also requested for lawsuits filed against the city related to the CCPD, of which she said she received 12 from Senior Deputy City Attorney Lisa Vidra. However, as verified in the city attorney’s statement, there were several lawsuits omitted from this original request.
“Through a manual review of documents contained in the database system, it was determined the omitted cases either were input into the system with incomplete date information, or the search fields did not contain the terms used by the requestor in the PRA request, i.e., race discrimination, racial profiling, excessive use of force, false imprisonment, wrongful arrest, 42 USC 1983, Civil Code 52.1, or 63 violations,” the attorney’s office statement read. Of those withheld, two of the lawsuits allegedly named Lt. Dunlap as a primary defendant.
Morasch then talks about one of the more significant points of contention for the police department: the involvement of a website called MuckRock. At muckrock.com, members of the public are given a portal to easily ask for particular documents and information through Public Records act requests, and Morasch writes that CCPD was asked to produce arrest records for the site.
She then reveals the results of those records. “Between 2017 and 2018, CCPD made 320 juvenile arrests. 205 or 64% were of black children. 87 or 27% were of Hispanic children. Whereas only 14 (4%) were of white children, and 14 were of ‘Others,’ she writes. “The names of the ‘other’ children arrested have names such as Lowell Marquis, Mohamed, Keyon, Cordova and Malik, etc.” According to CCPD, these records obtained by muckrock were in fact accurate and from the period of Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2018, but said that “approximately 50% of these arrests were in response to radio calls for service for theft related crimes and/or trespassing. Approximately 25% of these arrests were in response to calls for service for crimes such as robbery, carjacking, residential burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. The remaining approximate 25% of juvenile arrests were for crimes such as gun and weapons possession, grand theft auto, sexual battery and drug possession.”
The Culver City Police Officer Association, who also released an op-ed on Culver City Crossroads two days after Morasch’s letter was published, emphasized this particular point, saying, “75% of those arrests were the result of radio calls, not observations or self-initiated activities involving racial profiling as the article suggested.”
However, Morasch provided some context from some of the arrests, including that of a 9-year old Hispanic boy for disturbing the peace and three bookings of black kids for ‘felony horse/bovine theft.’ Neither the city attorney’s office nor the CCPD made comments on particular cases.
To see the documents in full, visit the Culver City Crossroads website at https://culvercitycrossroads.com/, as well as the Culver City official website at culvercity.org.