Newsletter: Essential California: An elite LAPD unit disproportionately stopped black drivers, data show

Officers from the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division search a car in 2015.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Jan. 24, and here’s what’s happening across California:


To combat a surge in violent crime, the Los Angeles Police Department doubled the size of its elite Metropolitan Division in 2015, creating special units to swarm crime hot spots. The effectiveness of the strategy is hard to assess: Crime continued to rise for several years before dipping in 2018. But it has caused a shift that some consider alarming: Metro officers stop African American drivers at a rate more than five times their share of the city’s population, according to a Times analysis. The information analyzed by The Times does not show why an individual officer pulled over a driver. It does not contain information about whether a driver was searched, ticketed or arrested after the stop. Nor can the data prove that Metro officers are engaged in racial profiling. But some civil rights advocates say the racial disparities revealed by The Times’ analysis are too extreme to be explained by other factors and troubling for a department that has spent the last quarter-century trying to repair its fractured relationship with the city’s black residents. Los Angeles Times

Remember this guy?


Terry Bryant’s biggest and least welcome brush with fame came last year, when he was charged with stealing Frances McDormand’s best actress statue at the Governor’s Ball after the Oscars. Now, in the next episode of his own reality show — scheduled for Thursday morning — Bryant will appear in L.A. County Superior Court to try to get the case thrown out. “No. 1, I didn’t do what they said I did,” Bryant told columnist Steve Lopez in the Santa Monica office of his lawyer, Daniel Brookman, who has counted Dr. Timothy Leary and Robert Downey Jr. among his celebrity clients. Los Angeles Times

Fighting on

Months of tension and turmoil on USC’s board of trustees prompted an emergency meeting Wednesday on campus, with the university’s leadership as a top item for discussion. The meeting was called by board Chairman Rick Caruso, the billionaire mall developer who has been the target of growing criticism by a small but influential contingent of longtime trustees. Those critics, who include fellow billionaires Ed Roski and Ming Hsieh, have suggested Caruso is not fit to lead the board because of his handling of a dispute over the ouster of a popular dean. A university administrator who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the gathering as a way to quickly bring the clashing trustees together and “find a path forward.” Los Angeles Times

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Back at it: Los Angeles teachers and union staff returned to school Wednesday morning, hours after voting on a contract agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District that put an end to a strike that spanned six school days. Los Angeles Times

Lawsuit: A Los Angeles Unified teacher filed a federal class-action lawsuit this week against United Teachers Los Angeles alleging the group continued to take dues out of her paycheck despite a change in law that bars public-sector unions from forcing members to pay. Los Angeles Times

A new movement, maybe: A six-day strike that energized L.A. teachers and parents cast a light on the difficulties for many middle-class parents in the city. Los Angeles Times

Students cross Highland Avenue to the Hollywood High campus after the Los Angeles teachers' strike.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Payback for ‘Chinatown’? Business owners in Inyo County will have a chance to buy back land many of them feel was stolen from them by the city of Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times

More accusations: “The Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer has been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct for 20 years. Here, his alleged victims tell their stories.” The Atlantic


In Latin America: The Trump administration took the unusual and provocative step Wednesday of recognizing the leader of the political opposition in Venezuela as the country’s legitimate president. Los Angeles Times

By the border: How does it feel when your town becomes a character in Trump-era political theater. New York Times


Ruh-roh: Major portions of the Metro Blue Line will close for eight months starting this weekend, inconveniencing tens of thousands of daily riders as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority launches a $350-million overhaul of the system’s oldest line. Los Angeles Times

On the trail: Sen. Kamala Harris’ “hidden army.” Politico

Doctors, take note: In a review of opioid overdose deaths, “investigators in California are going back three years to identify any doctors who may have prescribed the drugs inappropriately, even if it was not the fatal dose, and send them letters.” NPR


New legal team: Harvey Weinstein has hired the attorney who won an acquittal for Orlando mother Casey Anthony to lead his defense against sexual assault charges in New York City, his new legal team announced. Los Angeles Times

Charged: A Santa Ana man is facing federal charges after authorities say he used Instagram to send threatening messages to family members and friends of people killed in a mass shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Los Angeles Times

On campus: Do Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes at American universities improve U.S.-China ties or harbor spies? Federal authorities are investigating. Los Angeles Times

Crime stats: Downtown L.A. had the most number of crimes in 2018, according to data from the Los Angeles Police Department. Crosstown Crime


Something up with that: Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have publicly acknowledged the dangers of global warming, but last week they all sponsored a conference that promoted climate change denial to young libertarians.” Mother Jones


Are robots coming for my job? The answer is different depending on whether you live in Stockton or San Jose or San Bernardino, whether you are white or Hispanic, whether you are young or old, and what kind of job you do. A new study from the Brookings Institution parses the difference and outlines the massive social safety net that needs to be adopted to prepare for automation and artificial intelligence. Two maps of California show regional differences by county and metro area. Los Angeles Times

What a quiz: “You’re a true Californian only if you’ve eaten 20/28 of these foods.” BuzzFeed

Not too shabby: What $2,500 rents you in Los Angeles right now. Curbed LA

Sad: The Golden Spur in Glendora has closed after 100 years, but it’s getting a new use. Inland Valley Daily Bulletin


Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy, 75, Thursday. Sunny, 75, Friday. San Diego: Partly cloudy, 71, Thursday. Sunny, 72, Friday. San Francisco area: Sunny, 59, Thursday. Sunny, 61, Friday. San Jose: Sunny, 64, Thursday. Sunny, 66, Friday. Sacramento: Sunny, 60, Thursday. Sunny, 62, Friday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Kathi Bailey-Allen:

My dad worked for North American Rockwell in the ’60s. We were transferred to Houston during the Apollo project and lived near what is now the Johnson Space Center. We moved back to California (Cerritos) in the summer of 1969, just before my sophomore year in high school. What a great time to be a young person in the L.A. area! One of the things my boyfriend and I loved to do through high school and college was to go to the Music Center and buy student rush tickets. You could get any seat that wasn’t sold 30 minutes before curtain for only $5 with a student ID! We saw a lot of great plays sitting in the orchestra section of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for $5. The play I remember best, though, was at the Ahmanson Theatre. It was a very unique staging of ‘Macbeth’ starring Charlton Heston and Vanessa Redgrave. Only in L.A. could we have enjoyed that caliber of performance for $5!”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.