By: Elgin Nelson, Staff
A Beverly Hills police task force designed to “crackdown on fraudulent purchases” is now at the center of a $500 million lawsuit spearheaded by prominent attorneys Ben Crump and Bradley Gage, alleging that while Blacks constitute just 1.5% of Beverly Hills’ population, they’ve accounted for 90% of the task force’s arrests.
Approximately 1,088 Black people were arrested by the Beverly Hills Police Department from August 2019 to August 2021, but only two resulted in convictions.
Crump and Gage recently held a press conference to discuss the Rodeo Drive Task Force and the alleged history of racism in Beverly Hills. “The task force wasn’t there to deter crime… it was to send a message to Black people that we don’t want your kind around here,” Crump said.
Jasmine Williams and Khalil White—who are among the six defendants named in the lawsuit— were visiting Los Angeles in 2021 when the Rodeo Drive Task Force arrested them on suspicion of riding on a scooter through Beverly Hills. According to the lawsuit, the two were “seized without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, suffered excessive force, and/or maliciously prosecuted on false charges.”
The two were joined by four other defendants at the press conference including Lakshia Swift who claimed to be stopped for just being Black, and Shepherd York, a law clerk, who said he was pulled over while driving to work because of an alleged expired license plate. “I spent three days in jail… it was humiliating, scary, and sad,” York said.
Both lawyers alluded to the decades old racism in the Beverly Hills Police Department. “Nothing has changed,” according to Gage, “if anything it has become worse.”
The city of Beverly Hills denies any wrongdoing. “The role of the Beverly Hills Police Department is to enforce the law, regardless of race…the statistics presented referencing the number of convictions is a mischaracterization of the evidence in this case,” according to a statement released by the city.
Calls to the Beverly Hills Police Department were not returned.