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Recording of Former LAPD Homicide Detective Calling Black Driver ‘A Dumb N***er’ Leads to Review of 370 Cases He Worked


A former Los Angeles Police Department detective this week sparked an internal review of hundreds of cases he was involved in after he was caught on film calling a Black driver a “dumb n***er” following a minor traffic accident.

In a video that went viral this week, retired LAPD homicide detective John Motto is shown antagonizing and berating a young Black man with repeated uses of the N-word after both drivers pulled their vehicles to the side of the road following the fender bender. Motto’s conduct triggered mandatory investigations by the LAPD and the L.A. District Attorney’s Office.

“Under the law, we are required, once we are aware of someone having racist tendencies, as in the case of the individual — we have to notify all the defense lawyers in all the cases that this individual may have been a witness or participated in the investigation,” L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón said, according to CBS affiliate KCBS-TV.

Gascon also called the video “horrific,” saying it illustrated “incredibly racist attitudes” on Motto’s part.

The video, which was captured by an onlooker on his lunch break, begins after the heated argument between Motto and the other driver had already gotten underway and after at least one of them had already used the N-word.

“Oh, you can say n****r but I can’t?” Motto says.

“Are you fucking serious right now?” the Black driver says while angrily pacing.

“Go back into your little cage until the monkey controller gets here,” Motto says as the other driver turns towards the onlookers and asks if they heard the former officer call him the N-word.

“Y’all heard him just call me a n****r, right?” the Black driver says.

“No. He started the n****r thing because he is the dumb n****r,” Motto says while pointing his finger in the Black man’s face.

“Yeah, I said it second. Right after you,” Motto continues, expressing offense after the Black driver uses the word one more time.

The LAPD this week announced it was opening its own investigation into Motto’s work with the department.

“It has come to the Department’s attention that there is a video posted on social media of a retired LAPD detective. The individual in the video uses a racial slur while engaged in an argument,” the department said in a statement. “The individual is not a current member of the LAPD and retired in May 2020 as a detective assigned to Operations Central Bureau Homicide.  To ensure there is no current Department nexus to this incident, there has been an internal investigation started.”

Civil rights attorney DeWitt Lacey told KCAL-TV that the investigations are definitely going to probe whether or not Motto ever planted evidence on suspects of color.

“They’re gonna question whether or not he ignored evidence from people of color, Black folks in particular,” she said, adding, “They’re gonna question the type of people he went after.”

[image via YouTube/KCAL 9 screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.