Public documents included in a recent report by the community organization Stop LAPD Spying explain how Pred-Pol and Operation LASER, which the LAPD used chiefly in its predictive policing program, supported long-existing patterns of racial profiling and overpolicing in Black and brown communities. LASER—which stood for Los Angeles’ Strategic Extraction and Restoration—was launched in 2011 to determine exact locations connected to gun and gang violence, the Los Angeles Times reported. It took police some eight years to realize the program wasn’t accomplishing what it promised, with questions raised about how effective the program was as a data-driven strategy relying on algorithms.
“We discontinued LASER because we want to reassess the data,” Josh Rubenstein, the LAPD’s chief spokesman, told the Times in April of 2019. “It was inconsistent. We’re pulling back.”
A month before that revelation, police were targeting a corner in a Black community that Ermias Asghedom, the late rapper who went by Nipsey Hussle, was working to attract Black-owned investment to. He bought the Marathon Clothing Store at Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard in 2017 and was ultimately shot and killed in front of the store on March 31, 2019 allegedly by a former friend of his.
“Unknown to the community was that the intersection of Slauson and Crenshaw had been marked a LASER Anchor Point since at least 2016 and was part of a larger LASER Zone since 2015,” authors of the Stop LAPD Spying report wrote in a summary. “A Palantir mission sheet for the intersection from 2017 shows a single patrol car making 103 stops and 3 arrests in a 7-day timespan. The mission sheet directed police to look for a robbery ‘suspect’ described simply as a 16 to 18 year old Black male ‒ not at all descriptive but apparently enough to justify 103 stops.
“Another mission sheet for the 7 days prior shows 58 stops and 7 arrests, all apparently looking for the same 16 to 18 year old Black male ‘suspect.’”
(And yes, that’s the same Palantir software company that works with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify immigrants to be deported through data mining.)
Nipsey was being investigated by LAPD based on officers’ claim that his store was a front for “gang activity,” according to the report. City Attorney Mike Feuer had “harassed Nipsey for years based on a ‘maniacal zeal to expel the Marathon Store from Slauson Plaza,’” authors of the report wrote. “At the same time LAPD was working to criminalize the area and the City Attorney was working to expel Nipsey, mega-developers and real estate speculators with close relationships to LAPD were competing against Nipsey and other local Black investors to acquire land and wealth in the area.”
Stop LAPD Spying listed the commercial real estate firm CIM Group and the investment firm Goldman Sachs as two of those companies. “CIM has long collaborated with police on displacement,” authors of the report wrote. “A CIM Group principal with close ties to LAPD also served as president of the Hollywood Property Owners’ Alliance (HPOA), which manages two BIDs (Business Improvement Districts).
“Since November 2014, HPOA paid for an upgrade to LAPDʼs network of wireless surveillance cameras with monitors in the Hollywood Station. CIM also donated rent to LAPD from 2008 to 2018 for the establishment of a substation and ‘logistical base’ at a CIM-owned shopping mall.”
Goldman Sachs helps LAPD access new technologies and resources “without public scrutiny through the Los Angeles Police Foundation,” and in 2019, the company anonymously donated $250,000 through the foundation to fund a “community policing” program in Harvard Park, which is an Opportunity Zone giving investors tax breaks, Stop LAPD Spying wrote.
The group added:
“CSP sites also have been testing grounds for LAPD surveillance, for example with wireless cameras streaming live video to local cop cars at the Jordan Downs public housing complex. Within days of the Opportunity Zone announcement, Goldman Sachs moved fast to pursue these taxbreaks and claimed it would ‘voluntarily measure the outcomes of its projects’ to ‘align their goals with community priorities.’ So not only would the firm exercise massive power to gentrify neighborhoods, it would also assume the role of measuring and translating the communityʼs priorities.
What is starkly clear from these relationships is that while Black residents of South Central were forced to navigate threats of police violence and banishment, outside investors and developers collaborated with LAPD on displacement, even donating salaries, weapons, surveillance equipment, and real estate for police officers deployed in the communities.”
Just because Pred-Pol and Operation LASER are out doesn’t mean the larger inner workings of the policing and tech partnerships harming people of color have halted. Another initiative simply replaced them, The Guardian reported. It uses the acronym DICFP, which stands for Data Informed Community Focused Policing, and the department wrote last year in a brochure for the program that its mission was “to safeguard the lives and property of the people we serve, to reduce the incidence and fear of crime, and to enhance public safety while working with our diverse communities to improve their quality of life.”
Moore wrote in the brochure that “policing strategies that focus solely on proactive suppression may reduce crime, but often leave neighborhoods feeling over-policed, singled out, and unnerved.” He also contended that the “legitimacy of a police department is dependent on a community’s trust in its police officers.”
In its description of DICFP, the department, however, detailed the same strategies that LASER used, compounding distrust in Black and brown communities. “Martin Luther King Jr Park in south-west LA – which documents show was an anchor point in 2016 and 2018 – was also identified as a neighborhood engagement area in March 2020 because the parking lot next to it was ‘where gang members are loitering,’” Guardian writer Johana Bhuiyan wrote. “A section in one of the documents that asks for a description of the ‘crime trend, activity, or quality of life issues’ describes complaints of ‘tailgating activities with barbecue grills and alcohol’ as well as overnight parking and encampments. In order to prevent future crime, the document notes, police did sweeps of the park, cited vehicles and dispatched additional gang units and patrols.
”Where the document asks the officer to indicate which of the three goals of DICFP the project accomplished, nothing is circled.”
LAPD officials have not replied to The Guardian‘s repeated requests for comment.
Shakeer Rahman, a community organizer with Stop LAPD Spying, told the British news website data-driven software helps automate already prevalent police logic. “That includes targeting poor people, targeting unhoused people, targeting Black, brown and disabled people,” Rahman said. “This is now helping to automate those practices and automate the harm, automate the banishment, automate the displacement that policing has always been responsible for.”