A class action lawsuit alleges the Beverly Hills Police Department targets Black people on the famed Rodeo Drive.
The lawsuit brought by Jasmine Williams and Khalil White of Philadelphia accuses the department’s so-called “Operation Safe Street” and its Rodeo Drive Task Force of profiling people of color who visit the city’s glitzy shopping district.
“I was arrested on Rodeo Drive and falsely accused for riding a scooter while being Black. Me and my girlfriend was on vacation. I had to spend a night in jail. They made me pay $25,000,” White said at a news conference Wednesday.
Famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump — who is part of the legal team for the plaintiffs — joined the couple at the gathering and said there is a history of racial bias in the Beverly Hills police force.
“If you’re Black on Rodeo Drive, then the police equate that with something nefarious,” Crump stated.
According to the lawsuit, most recent department figures show the Rodeo Drive Task Force arrested 106 people in 2020. Of those arrests, 105 were Black people and one was Latino.
U.S. Census figures show the population of Beverly Hills is 82 percent White and just two percent Black. Crump accused police of going out of their way to arrest African Americans.
“You had to be intentional to try to arrest [that] many Black people in Beverly Hills,” Crump said. “The demographics show that there are not many Black people who live in Beverly Hills.”
The attorney added that the city’s policing practices must change.
“If we let them get away with this and we don’t hold them accountable, will we have a George Floyd in Beverly Hills, California next? That’s why this lawsuit is so important,” Crump said.
Police Chief Dominick Rivetti on Wednesday denied any racial bias in his department.
“The women and men of BHPD take an oath to protect human life and enforce the law — regardless of race,” Rivetti said in a statement. “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.”
Rivetti added that the two Black plaintiffs in the lawsuit were arrested for riding a scooter on a sidewalk and had been warned that the activity was prohibited, before they were detained.
The police chief insisted crime is becoming a problem in the area and police have been cracking down.
In five weeks, officers recovered 13 loaded firearms from individuals on Rodeo Drive, and recovered more than $250,000 in cash and fraudulent EDD cards (unemployment debit cards) with a potential value of $3 million dollars, according to Rivetti.
“These calls included burglaries, shoplifting, pedestrian and vehicle code violations, street gambling, public intoxication, marijuana smoking and more,” Rivetti said. “This rise in crime during the pandemic and following months of civil unrest was not unique to Beverly Hills.”