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Beverly Hills Faces Racial Profiling Class Action Suit

Patch logo Patch 9/1/2021 Emily Rahhal
a close up of a logo: Two protestors are suing the city of Beverly Hills and Captain Scott Dowling over the arrests of 106 people of color. © Getty Images Two protestors are suing the city of Beverly Hills and Captain Scott Dowling over the arrests of 106 people of color.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - Two Black protestors are suing the city of Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Police Department Captain Scott Dowling over the arrests of 106 people of color. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, famous for his involvement in the Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and city of Flint, Michigan cases, will represent the protestors along with Attorney Bradley C. Gage.

The protestors, Jasmine Williams and Khalil White, filed a proposed class-action lawsuit Monday in the Los Angeles Superior court, alleging they were wrongfully arrested while protesting the actions of police during 'Operation Safe Street,' a months-long law enforcement campaign. The lawsuit comes amid an ongoing national conversation about police violence against people of color and discriminatory treatment in the justice system.

"We want to bring awareness to the world that this kind of behavior is not acceptable and not tolerated. And by having more of a national stage it’s going to help us to remind folks it’s just not acceptable and not to be tolerated," Gage said.

According to the lawsuit, "Operation Safe Street" resulted in 106 arrests, 105 of which involved African American suspects. The remaining one was Latino. The civil rights suit seeks unspecified damages.

Dowling was in charge of "Operation Safe Street," also known as the "Rodeo Drive Task Force," from March 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021. Dowling referred to Black people as "lazy" and laughed after viewing a video entitled "Yellow Fever With Soul" that was made by two Beverly Hills officers in 2015 and made fun of Black and Asian people, the suit states.

Williams and White, while visiting Beverly Hills on Sept. 7, were riding a scooter and "protesting the unlawful detention and citing the continuous racial targeting of individuals of color" when they were handcuffed and arrested on "multiple fabricated charges," the suit claims.

The lawsuit alleges that other people of color were also stopped and arrested without probable cause while doing similarly innocuous things such as roller skating and driving.

Prosecutors later declined to file charges against the plaintiffs, the suit states.

Gage said he believes the lawsuit will cause major shakeups at the Beverly Hills Police Department. He said he wouldn't be surprised if multiple key players such as Dowling and Assistant Chief Marc Coopwood resigned. In fact, Coopwood's resignation was announced earlier Tuesday.

Coopwood is leaving the department to work in the private sector, according to a media release from BHPD. The release celebrate's Coopwood's work in helping "to lead the City through civil unrest and political & social justice protests that spanned an unprecedented 32 consecutive weeks," referring to last summers' protests following the police killing of George Floyd.

A representative for the city did not immediately reply to a request for comment from City News Service.

Crump will be hosting a press conference Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at Beverly Hills City Hall.

A History Of Racial Profiling

"The Beverly Hills Police Department has a lengthy and documented history of racial profiling and targeting Black and brown people," Crump claimed in a written statement.

According to Gage, this history dates back to 1995, when six African American teenagers filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city for allegedly being stopped and harassed by police. The department's troubled history continues up to the current era as former BHPD Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli retired amid lawsuits that alleged she had made racist remarks and harassed other employees.

Gage has represented many individuals against Spagnoli.

"I think it’s, unfortunately, more of the same," Gage said about the ongoing lawsuit against Beverly Hills.

Gage said he is hoping he can utilize this national stage to remind people of the plain and simple unfairness of such actions.

City News Service and Emily Rahhal contributed to this report.

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