The San Diego Police Department is attempting to deal with two major community complaints:  People don’t like to be made to sit on the curb while officers question them, nor do they like to be asked whether they’re on probation or parole.

This month, the department told officers to scale back their use of both tactics. Officers must have a specific reason to order subjects to sit on the curb and should only ask someone’s probation or parole status if they know that person’s criminal history or need to find out immediately. The department plans to make formal policy changes on both issues soon.

Minority community members have felt humiliated and singled out by each of these tactics, said Lei-Chala Wilson, the head of the local chapter of the NAACP.

“You get stopped maybe for a traffic ticket and they take you out your car, and they’re doing further investigation and they’re not sure what reason, but they’re sitting you on the curb,” Wilson said. “So everybody can see you sitting on the curb.”

Wilson and the local ACLU started updating those policies with former Chief William Lansdowne in January. Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, the ACLU’s policy director, said Lansdowne told her he was shocked at how frequently officers were having people sit on the curb when he did a ride-along.

Dooley-Sammuli said she’s pleased with SDPD’s policy changes, but wants to see how officers in the field react.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

“Changing words on a paper have to be met with changing behavior,” Dooley-Sammuli said. “That’s when we’ll really know.”

Next month, SDPD is scheduled to present to a City Council committee new racial data collection from traffic stops, a long-standing policy that had lapsed in recent years. Both the NAACP and ACLU recently asked Council members to require SDPD to provide detailed information about the stops, including how many resulted in arrest by race and by precinct.

Megan Burks contributed to this report.

    This article relates to: News, Politics, Racial Profiling, Share

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

    Victor Torres
    Victor Torres subscribermember

    Great job by the ACLU and NAACP for leading the charge. Much more work to do. This affects people of color more than people from the white so-called majority culture, but it definitely affects them too.

    Robert Clark
    Robert Clark subscriber

    Both these changes are wrong and put the officers safety behind political correctness. If your not on parole or probation then there is nothing to worry about. Sitting on the curb or in the back of a police car and everyone goes home in one piece. I'm sure everyone agrees on that. Data cards have shown no evidence of racial profiling in the city and should be done away with. The police do a great job and they don't need the ACLU or NAACP to tell them how to do their job. If you have not pinned on a badge and strapped on a gun don't begin to tell the cops how to do their job. You only make things more dangerous for them.

    Matty Azure
    Matty Azure subscriber

    Improbable Cause Puller-overer: "Where you going?  Where you coming from?"

    Driver: "(a) None of your damn business. (b) None of your damn business."

    Allen Hemphill
    Allen Hemphill subscribermember

    Of course they should be able to remain silent, at least until the PD brings them

    cookies and milk, a bag of jelly beans, and two tickets to a First-Run movie!

    Oh, yes, and a paid membership to the ACLU!

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. @Allen Hemphill: Why do I have the suspicion that you would be the first one to complain if you were stopped for a traffic violation and made to sit on the curb while further investigations were conducted. After all, you live in the Rancho Bernardo area right?

    Allen Hemphill
    Allen Hemphill subscribermember

    Ahhhh....wrong on two counts. Of course you only had two counts!

    Allen Hemphill
    Allen Hemphill subscribermember

    You are now zero for three! Take up knitting!

    Allen P Hemphill
    Allen P Hemphill

    The police should be required to give bags of sugar-free candy to every person they stop, offer them cold water, and always say "Please"