BEVERLY HILLS (CBSLA) —A class-action lawsuit accused the Beverly Hills Police Department of racially profiling Black shoppers and drivers along Rodeo Drive.
"We are going to ask for the Department of Justice to open an investigation," said high profile civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Crump most notably represented the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor during their civil rights cases.
The lawsuit alleges officers in the team targeted African Americans. According to the L.A. Times out of the 90 people arrested by the task force, 80 — about 89% — were Black.
Versace executive Salehe Bembery, who is part of the class action lawsuit, also accused Beverly Hills police of racial profiling after being stopped and frisked by officers while walking down Rodeo Drive.
Police said they set up Operation Safe Street after residents are merchants complained about rising crime. Officials denied allegations of racial profiling and defended the task force claiming it discovered a massive wave of identity thieves descending onto the high-end retail center. According to police, visitors from around the country have used thousands of fraudulent Employment Development Department cards registered to other people. Authorities said that 66% of all arrests were on suspicion of identity theft and believe that $2.5 million was stolen out of the state's unemployment system.
Crump also represents Lakisha Swift and Joseph Nett, who believe they were racially profiled during a traffic stop last year. The couple claims they were pulled over because they were three inches over the line while at a stoplight. Crump has called on the California Attorney General and the Department of Justice to investigate this incident.
"It's obvious it happened because we were Black," said Nett during a press conference. "If we were white we probably never would've been stopped."
Swift and Nett said they were then pulled out of the car, handcuffed and detained. Nett ended up in jail for three days. No charges were filed.
"I was then pulled out of the car and handcuffed for over 20 minutes," said Swift. "And they never told me why."
The city released a statement addressing the incident.
"Mr. Nett was the passenger in a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation," the city said. "It was determined that Mr. Nett was in violation of a restraining order obtained by the female driver. While the woman indicated she did not wish to press charges, for her safety and according to the law, Mr. Nett was taken into custody."
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