The Beverly Hills Police Department is facing a lawsuit over allegations that its officers have been racially profiling people along Rodeo Drive.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, filed the lawsuit against the department over claims its Operation Safe Street and Rodeo Drive Task Force units have unfairly targeted people of color for years. Noted footwear designer and former Versace vice president of sneakers Salehe Bembury is part of the lawsuit, citing an incident from October 2020 in which he was stopped by officers who claimed he was jaywalking.
“This Beverly Hills task force was created under the guise of safety, but don’t let anyone fool you,” said Crump. “In reality, these task forces were unjustifiably targeting people of color for things that white residents and visitors do all the time without incident. Dowling’s role in this task force should speak volumes–we’re talking about a man who was known to be racist and prejudiced against Black employees of the Beverly Hills Police Department.”
According to the lawsuit, the latest Beverly Hills police department arrest numbers show the task force has arrested 106 people, with 105 being Black.
“I mean, that’s just inexcusable,” added constitutional rights attorney Alexandria Kazarian, who is also involved in the suit. “There’s absolutely no way that the city of Beverly Hills is going to be able to argue that there was some kind of non-racially motivated basis for those arrests.”
The majority of the arrests are allegedly for minor offenses, which include riding a scooter, roller skating, or jaywalking. The majority of these stops have resulted in no charges, due to a lack of evidence. “They’re all very minor issues and if they are just targeting people who are doing those kinds of things on the sidewalk, there should be a wide range of people that are being targeted,” added Kazarian.
In a statement, Beverly Hills Police Chief Dominick Rivetti defended the Rodeo Drive task force, and said they recently recovered 13 loaded firearms from people on the road in five weeks. “The men and women of BHPD take an oath to protect human life and enforce the law—regardless of race,” Rivetti said, per CBS Los Angeles. “Any violation of this pledge is contrary to the values of this department. We take all concerns regarding the conduct of our officers very seriously.”