LA’s new Civil and Human Rights Department aims to tackle systemic racism

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Capri Maddox, executive director of LA’s Civil and Human Rights Department, says her office is meant to address systemic racism when it comes to commerce, employment, education, and housing in LA. Photo courtesy of the City of Los Angeles.

How unequal is Los Angeles? There’s a new city office with a mandate to find out. The Civil and Human Rights Department was created in February by Mayor Eric Garetti and the LA City Council.  

KCRW speaks with Capri Maddox, the new department’s executive director. 

“Our department is really to address systemic racism as it relates to commerce, employment, education, and housing within the city of Los Angeles. In addition, we are interested in reducing hate crimes and hate incidents in our region. And finally, we want to move forward to an upward mobility plan, so that we can level the playing field for our residents,” she says. 

She continues, “Systemic racism has been a part of our society for so long as it relates to employment, upward mobility opportunities; as it relates to middle class positions, middle class jobs, and the opportunity for more of our students students of color to go to college and to make a difference in society.”

Referencing the Anti-Defamation League, she says hate crimes are at an all time high since 1979. 

“I received two police reports just within the last 72 hours. And those crimes were against the transgender population. These violations are happening on a regular basis,” she says. “And hate speech is something that is prevalent as well. We know that the climate for blatant racism and discrimination has seemed to grow in the last few years.”

LA also recently passed a Civil And Human Rights Ordinance. Maddox explains that when someone’s rights are violated, her department will be able to bring forward a case. 

“Most instances, it seems that people will need more of a letter of concern, a mediation, and an opportunity to right the wrongs themselves. We want to have the tools for harsh enforcement up to $150,000. But we also want the opportunity to correct the behavior,” she says. 

Maddox says violations that involve violence or “other egregious instances,” her office can authorize fines as high as $250,000, and they can refer cases to other entities where fines are even higher.

For individuals who feel like they were discriminated against, they can ask  Maddox’s office to investigate. That only applies to private incidents, not public. 

“We do not focus on public entities. So the violations would have to be for a private school, a private business, or a private landlord, and of course a private employer. If you feel like … your rights have been violated in those areas, please contact us at the Civil and Human Rights Department,” she says. 

To contact the department, visit civilandhumanrights.la city.org.

—Written by Amy Ta, produced by Angie Perrin

Credits

Guest:
Capri Maddox - Los Angeles Department Of Civil and Human Rights

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin