During a recent two-week trial run of new state requirements, San Diego Police and San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies stopped Hispanic and black drivers at a higher rate than their share of the local population. Both agencies discouraged comparing the numbers to local demographics. The data also showed room for improvement with the new system, meant to track and deter racial profiling.
The chief of San Diego’s Border Patrol section said he can’t disclose what agents look for before stopping someone, but that race and ethnicity don’t come into play. A review of enforcement actions recorded between 2011 and 2014, though, shows agents stopped people for sometimes ambiguous reasons like sitting up straight or driving slowly.
A long-awaited study on whether the San Diego Police Department engages in racial profiling found some evidence of bias but was ultimately restrained in its conclusions. But a draft copy of the study obtained by Voice of San Diego was far more aggressive. In the final version, harsh language was softened and some troubling findings were taken out entirely.
In 2000, the SDPD was a national leader in collecting demographic data to address community concerns about biased policing, but then fell out of compliance with its own policy. By implementing the Racial and Identity Profiling Act ahead of schedule, the San Diego Police Department can lead again.
In the weeks since District 4 City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole said black-on-black crime justified racial profiling by law enforcement, a split has emerged in the community. Younger advocates have called for her resignation, while established community leaders have urged reconciliation.
The department held one of its open house events in Encanto and for the first time gave the public a look at how it trains against racial profiling. But at least one resident thought officers tried too hard to convince attendees their racial profiling concerns were invalid.
San Diego Police and city officials in the past have written off charges of systemic racial profiling as mutual misunderstandings about culture and police practices. San Diego State researchers are using a new method called the “Veil of Darkness” to examine whether racial profiling claims hold up.
Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman released an anti-profiling PSA in conjunction with minority rights groups, amid other reforms. But it remains to be seen how much impact the efforts will have on lasting change within the department.
Based on figures from January through March, San Diego police pulled over blacks and Hispanics at a higher rate than their percentage of the population. The police chief says more analysis is needed to draw conclusions from the data.
The police chief has gone from being unaware of racial profiling concerns to hearing them firsthand.