Mathematics Professor Appointed to State Board on Racial Profiling

Loyola Marymount University Professor of Mathematics Lily Khadjavi has been appointed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve a multi-year term on the  statewide Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board (RIPA). “We’re seeing incredibly heightened public awareness of the actions of law enforcement across the country. However the need to shine a light on police practice is not new. Here in California, this board is part of a statewide effort, years in the making, to bring transparency and change,” said Khadjavi.

The RIPA Board was established under Assembly Bill 953, The Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015. Among the requirements of the bill is a massive statewide data collection effort. Since January 2018, California law has mandated that the eight largest law enforcement agencies, such as the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), collect data regarding driver and pedestrian stops. Each year a larger group of agencies is required to share such data with the California Department of Justice. By 2022, the state will be entering ‘wave 4’ of this effort, with over 400 agencies participating.

The goals of the RIPA board include tackling concerns about racial and identity profiling in law enforcement. Khadjavi’s appointment is among those designated by the Attorney General, and board members work with the California DOJ.  “The membership of the board is very diverse by design:  appointees are designated by statute to include legal experts, representatives from law enforcement, community organizers, and faculty with expertise. With resources like the Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles here at LMU, our University is in an excellent position to be involved with efforts like these, both at the city and the state level.”

For a number of years, Khadjavi’s research has focused on the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which in the early 2000s was under a Consent Decree signed with the U.S. Department of Justice. Teaching statistics at LMU — and on the hunt for real world data to analyze in the classroom — she discovered that the LAPD had been ordered to collect data about their driver stops, with some information posted online, but that up until then, very little of it was being analyzed. “This was an opportunity for my students to tackle real world issues — and was my entry point into this area. We find that the data tells a story. It helps us understand what is happening systemically.”

Thanks to public records laws and help from the Southern California ACLU, more data was made available to her. Khadjavi’s concerns about racial and ethnic disparities in policing trends, especially in search practices, have since led to collaborations with law faculty and sociologists at other institutions. “These projects grew over time, through the opportunity to participate in law conferences and learn more about constitutional issues, as a companion to the empirical tools that we use to study these issues.” In May 2017, Khadjavi shared her research on the Relatively Prime podcast, discussing the relationship between race and searches during traffic stops in Los Angeles.

Khadjavi was recently sworn in virtually to her position on the board. Meetings are statewide and open to the public. “Public participation is crucial. All board and subcommittee meetings include forums for public comment,” she notes. Khadjavi has been teaching at LMU since January 2000 and appreciates the fact that LMU provides an opportunity to reflect on a commitment to social justice, with support for interdisciplinary studies and openness to engaging with ideas that can have a lasting impact. “We all have critical work to do, and there is energy and momentum right now to effect change.”