On Sept. 11, prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and his co-counsel, local attorney Bradley Gage, held a press conference outside Beverly Hills City Hall to provide an update on developments in an ongoing class action lawsuit against the city and the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD).
The lawsuit alleges Beverly Hills police officers targeted people of color as part of a task force dubbed “Rodeo Drive Team” over the course of a two-year period.
In the case, “Jasmine Williams, et al. v. City of Beverly Hills, et. al,” the attorneys for the plaintiffs allege that from August 2019 to August 2021, 1,088 Black people were arrested by the BHPD but only two have resulted in convictions. According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, 90% of people arrested by the Rodeo Drive Team were Black even though only 1.5% of the Beverly Hills population is Black.
The plaintiffs’ legal team announced a $500 million demand.
“We need enough money to make one of the richest cities in the world understand racial profiling is bad business, and they will end up having consequences for their behavior,” Gage, founding partner at Goldberg and Gage, told the Courier in a phone interview. “There’s been no shortage of improper conduct with the Beverly Hills Police Department.”
The city, however, denies the allegations, saying in a statement, “The statistics presented referencing the number of convictions is a mischaracterization of the evidence in this case. In addition, the 1,088 arrests referenced include people cited and released, not just custodial arrests.”
“The city of Beverly Hills is an international destination that always welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” the statement said. “The role of the Beverly Hills Police Department is to enforce the law, regardless of race. The city denies and will continue to strongly defend itself against these allegations.”
A representative of the city declined to provide additional comment.
The ongoing litigation between the plaintiffs and the city dates to the summer of 2021. At that time, the original lawsuit filed against the city accused then-BHPD Captain Scott Dowling, who is now retired, of widespread racial profiling while operating a task force that had been launched to combat rising crime in the city’s business district.
As previously reported by the Courier, the Rodeo Drive Team—also known as the Rodeo Drive Task Force—was successful in recovering firearms from individuals on Rodeo Drive and uncovering fraudulent use of California unemployment benefits.
Dowling resigned from the city’s police force before the lawsuit was filed.
The Rodeo Drive Task Force has since been disbanded.
The latest amended complaint seeks monetary damages, injunctive relief and demands a jury trial. Gage, the plaintiff’s attorney, described the injunctive relief as “a court order to prevent the city from engaging in further racial profiling.”
According to the complaint, two of the plaintiffs—Jasmine Williams and Khalil White—were, in September 2020, “riding a scooter and not violating any laws. Nevertheless, they were detained, falsely
arrested, subjected to excessive force…[and] jailed.” Neither was convicted of any crimes, the complaint says.
The city has previously claimed BHPD made contact with Williams and White on Rodeo Drive, where they told the two scooter-riders that the city had a moratorium on ride-sharing apps like Bird or Lime. Prosecutors charged them with an infraction for riding the scooters and a misdemeanor resisting arrest. A judge dismissed the charges.
According to Gage, the September 10 press conference was held as the plaintiffs’ attorneys filed an updated lawsuit against the city and as “four new victims came forward” claiming they were racially targeted by the city.
Crump is a well-known attorney who has represented the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among others.