Inspector General Concludes LASD’s Traffic Stop Program is Constitutionally Flawed

Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman has not yet finished his investigation into a highway drug enforcement program that some believe is targeting Latino drivers along the 5 freeway. But in a scathing report recently given to the department’s civilian oversight panel, the IG said he has already concluded it was built on a flawed premise that violates the constitutional rights of drivers. Furthermore, he questioned a possible lack of supervision, as well as the rationale for the program’s existence.

As CountyNews reported last month, a recent Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that 69% of drivers stopped by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Domestic Highway Enforcement Team were Latino. Two-thirds of them had their vehicles searched. By comparison, other racial and ethnic groups saw their vehicles searched less than half the time. In addition to Huntsman’s investigation, the Sheriff’s Department has opened its own pair of inquiries into the program.

Huntsman stopped short of concluding that racial profiling was taking place. However, he said the program is “inherently built to violate the constitutional rights of a vast number of people passing through the I-5 Freeway.” He also criticized the department’s failure to adhere to several court rulings that found drivers’ rights were violated. He likened the problems to a series of racially-motivated traffic stops that occurred in the Antelope Valley, which forced a legal settlement between the department and federal officials in 2013.

Huntsman says the LASD should begin reviewing department-wide traffic stops for signs of racial bias. A spokesman for the department did not respond to an L.A. Times inquiry.