A panel of elected Los Angeles leaders this week took a step toward cracking down on racism among taxicab drivers. The City Council’s trade and tourism committee voted Tuesday to tighten penalties for drivers who rack up complaints over picking up white customers and leaving blacks at the curb.
The committee’s action was inspired by a recent undercover operation by two African-American police officers who were rejected by taxi drivers in 20 percent of their request for rides at the Los Angeles Airport. In some cases, the drivers refused to give the black men rides because they asked to go cheaper, shorter destinations.
"The last thing we want is for our city to have any part in discrimination," Bob Blumenfield, the councilman who proposed a policy change, told the Los Angeles Times. He and his colleagues on the committee have suggested banning taxicab drivers from working at the airport for a year if an investigation finds drivers guilty of racial discrimination.
Blumenfield has also suggested that police continue their undercover stings operations to gather more data on racial bias among taxicab drivers. The City Council was expected to vote on the policy change next week, according to the L.A. Times.
The initial sting operation was prompted by a complaint from ESPN analyst Doug Glanville, who wrote an essay last year for the Atlantic magazine claiming a Los Angeles airport cabbie refused to give him a ride because he is black. Glanville also reported the incident to the local taxicab authority which, after an investigation, found his allegations were substantiated.
The driver reportedly told authorities that "there was no racial aspect to his behavior," and that he was confused about whether other passengers were first in line before Glanville, the L.A. Times reported. But Los Angeles taxi administrator Tom Drischler said the probe convinced him that racial bias among taxicab drivers is "a systemic problem that needs to be dealt with as strongly as possible."