Los Angeles officials launch survey on current state of racial tension

File: Mitch O'Farrell at a Los Angeles City Council meeting on Aug. 6, 2013.
File: Mitch O'Farrell at a Los Angeles City Council meeting on Aug. 6, 2013.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

Los Angeles officials have announced a pilot initiative they hope will kickstart a citywide discussion about race relations. The first stage of embRACE L.A. launched Thursday and will go on for at least five weeks.

Starting in South L.A., volunteers will go door to door asking Angelenos about diversity and racial tension in the city. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell told KPCC that South L.A. was chosen because of the high black and Latino population. 

Residents are also encouraged to fill out the anonymous survey online, he said. The questions will ask about basic information as well as deeper inquiries, such as how they feel the L.A. Police Department can improve relations with their racial group. 

“Since it’s anonymous, it really provides an environment in which someone filling out a survey can be completely honest with their feelings, and that’ll be a good thing,” O’Farrell said. 

Analyzing the data it yields, he added, will offer an objective view of what's going on in the city. 

O'Farrell is spearheading the initiative with Council President Herb Wesson. He said they came up with the idea after a string of officer-involved shootings caused tempers to flare across the country last year.

“Tensions were running high on many levels, and we just thought it might be a good time for us to do some digging. Knowing that tensions were building, it was important that we take a good look at race relations and tensions between the various cultures of Los Angeles,” he said.  

Until results of the survey are compiled and they see the success rate volunteers find going door to door, O'Farrell said, it's hard to say what information the questions will yield. If the in-person method proves difficult for the volunteers, they’ll have to rethink the initiative's strategy, he added. But if it proves successful, the initiative will be extended to the other City Council districts. 

“This isn’t just something that’s going to start and finish. This is the beginning of the dialogue,” O'Farrell said.