Los Angeles, CA—In 2022, Bernard Robins was racially profiled by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, who detained him after refusing to accept his identification as a LAPD officer.
Now, Robins is determined to get LAPD’s gang unit disbanded, because the department is rooted in racially profiling Black men from the inner city.
As a LAPD officer, Robins received a first hand look into how marginalized communities in L.A, are policed differently from the larger Los Angeles landscape.
The incident involved officers from the 77th Division station and happened while Robins stopped by his home briefly with a friend.
They had been filming a project Robins was working on, and preparing to head to their final set location for the day.
Robins sat talking with his passenger, when he spotted three LAPD officers get out of a patrol car as he turned to exit his vehicle.
“I immediately put my hands up and told them I was a police officer, and that I had my firearm on me which I am legally allowed to carry. They told us to get up on the fence and the person I was with put his bag in the car,” Robins detailed.
Robins went along with officers as they placed him in handcuffs, reassuring himself that the officers were just following protocol.
He objected, however, when officers told Robins they were going to search his vehicle.
Initially they said they stopped me for tinted windows. They then told me after seeing my police I.D that they couldn’t verify that I was an officer for over an hour. There are systems where you can look up officers current status in 5 minutes, said Robins.
During his probationary period, Robins worked at a station near the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and says local residents were treated nice and with respect by police.
In South Central, Robins was shunned by fellow officers for waving at Black people in the community.
When he would be requested as backup for traffic stops, Robins began to notice that Black men usually had their rights infringed upon by police.
The officers who initiated these traffic stops were always convinced there were weapons and drugs in the car, or the Black occupants had open warrants for their arrest.
I’ve lived on the border of 77th division and Inglewood since I was 7 years old. During my time with LAPD, I’ve never witnessed officers pull a group of white or Asian males out of a vehicle, but I’ve witnessed it happen to Black groups around 10 times and Latinos twice.Bernard Robins
Robins experiences made him draw parallels between law enforcement today and the origins of policing in America, which were runaway slave patrols during slavery.
As Robins was being detained in front of his home, officers illegally searched his car, finding an unregistered firearm in his passenger’s backpack.
They were both taken down to the station where Robins remained in handcuffs for over six hours.
When he was allowed to leave the station, officers apologizing to him profusely during his release.
“I did shed some tears because I worked so long to stay out of trouble growing up here and deflecting everything that came my way, just for them to turn around and treat me like that. It was pretty traumatic.”
Although his passenger was not given a reason why, his gun case was eventually thrown out. Robins suspects it was because the initial stop was illegal.
Following his experience, Robins abandoned his ideas of trying to change the culture of policing from within.
Those officers violated our pretext stop policy when they detained me. Secondly, they said they detained me for tinted windows but I was parked before they initiated a stop. The third policy they broke was the way the requested consent to search my vehicle. And lastly, they tried to make me allow them to search my vehicle after I said no, which is also a violation of policy.Bernard Robins
Robins lost two brothers and was determined to stay on a straight and narrow path growing up within the backdrop of violence and gangs in L.A.
He joined LAPD because he thought as a Black police officer, he could help mend some of the issues in policing.
Robins quickly realized that there was an immense amount of pushback from other police officers when you “try and do things right.”
The day before the incident, Robins hosted a back to school event with his department to show kids positive representation of Black police officers. Robins even used some of his own money for supplies.
He is now suing LAPD, calling attention to the department’s tactics. Robins says illegal traffic stops are leading to larger situations, such as the beating death of Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police.
“They are terrorizing the community. I was a cop and still got my rights violated. The best thing for us to do is have solidarity and start showing up as groups. If I was not a former officer, the lawyers would not have taken my case because this happens so often.”