A federal judge ruled some Los Angeles police tactics in patrolling downtown unconstitutional, reports the Los Angeles Times. The decision raises questions about the city’s successful campaign to reduce dramatically the number of crimes and homeless people. U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson found that officers question and search parolees and probationers without evidence they might have committed a crime, which he said was unconstitutional. He ordered the police to change their practices.
City officials disputed the judge’s decision and said that police were acting within the law. The Los Angeles Police Department is in the midst of a major crackdown on downtown crime, having made 6,000 arrests in the last six months and recorded a 35 percent drop in crime. The crackdown has corresponded with a drop in downtown’s street dwellers, from 1,800 last September to fewer than 750 last week. “It’s an important decision,” said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School. “It sort of resolves an argument percolating out there” over whether police “would have permission to stop anybody.” Paul Johnson, a 10-year skid row resident, wrote in the case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that a person’s parole status was “the first question they ask after asking your name.”