The headlines were damning. Leaders from San Jose’s black community said cops had put a target on their backs. Police were unjustly stopping drivers because of their race and in some cases assaulting them, too, they said. Even black cops noted the startling trend.
The city’s new police chief, Bill Lansdowne, stepped into his job and had to handle the mounting tensions. His advisers told him to leave the sensitive issue alone. He disagreed. Rather than ignore racial profiling, he wanted to study it.
It was 1999, and San Jose was suffering. The allegations, coming atop the worst decade of crime in the city’s history, had taken a toll on public confidence in police. Lansdowne aimed to mend it. He told his officers to add race, gender and age information to their traffic reports. If racial profiling was indeed a problem in San Jose, he wanted to know.