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, newly released data from the California attorney general’s office shows. The difference was most dramatic for black people in the city of San Diego, who make up 6 percent of the population, but were stopped 18 percent of the time by participating city police.

Both San Diego law enforcement agencies participated in a pilot program ahead of new requirements soon to be rolled out as part of a 2015 law authored by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber that aims to collect data in order to identify and deter police racial profiling. In a Feb. 24 VOSD op-ed, Weber wrote the new law is “aimed at ensuring that all Californians are treated fairly by law enforcement.”

Racial stop data can be a tool to track possible police bias, though its value is debated by researchers. The new numbers offer a small window into the pedestrian and vehicle stops made by 30 officers at each of the 10 participating law enforcement agencies over a two-week period in May.

Participants reported the perceived race of those stopped, choosing from seven options that included Asian, black, Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern or South Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander and white. In some instances, officers chose more than one race for a single individual, the data shows.

Each participating officer could submit data for up to 14 stops, said a spokeswoman for the California Department of Justice. Spokesmen for both San Diego law enforcement agencies discouraged comparing the numbers to local demographics, saying the sample is too small and the pilot was only meant to iron out the data-submission process.

“Nothing really surprising in this snapshot,” said Joe Kocurek, Weber’s communications director. “These preliminary numbers reflect the experience of people in communities of color. But numbers like this will be more meaningful when we have a larger sample size and other data, including information about the outcome of these stops.”


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

Though small in size, the new numbers do continue a trend seen by San Diego State University researchers last year who looked at all driver stops made by San Diego police in 2014 and 2015.

“Claims suggesting its officers engage in racial profiling are unfounded,” Brian Marvel, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, wrote in a letter to the City Council earlier this year, reacting to the SDSU findings. “While the SDPOA is not naïve enough to believe that racial profiling can never occur within SDPD, we are confident that if any such instances come to light that they will be dealt with promptly and appropriately.”

A San Diego County Sheriff’s official said he could offer no larger dataset showing deputy stops by race.

The Numbers

Out of 325 stops made by San Diego police for the pilot program, Hispanics and blacks were stopped 51 percent of the time, even though those groups combined make up only 35 percent of the city population, according to 2010 Census data reported by the San Diego Association of Governments. In contrast, city police stopped white people 42 percent of the time, less than their 45 percent share of the city population.

San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies — who patrol Del Mar, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, Poway, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach and Vista, as well as the county’s unincorporated areas — reported 322 stops to the California attorney general.

Nearly 39 percent of the San Diego Sheriff’s deputies stops involved Hispanics and Blacks, even though those groups together make up 31 percent of the population in all sheriff patrol areas. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s deputies stopped whites 53 percent of the time, less than the 59 percent white population recorded by the 2010 Census in those areas.

Local Population vs. Stops

The two San Diego agencies participated in the pilot along with the California Highway Patrol, Gardena Police, Los Angeles Police, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, San Francisco Police Department and Ventura Police Department.

Looking at the race percentages of the stops alone, San Diego Police and Sheriff’s deputies generally fell in the middle of the 10-agency pack across all “perceived race” groups.

San Diego law enforcement stops and all stop combined

To see the racial breakdown of the stops submitted by each pilot agency, click here.

Some agency percentages exceed 100 percent because an officer selected more than one race per stop. To calculate each race percentage, the number of times a race was marked by each agency was divided by the total number of stops reported by that agency.

A Guessing Game

Taking a closer look at the 3,000 field test entries from all agencies shows room for improvement.

Not only did some officers select more than one race per stop, a handful selected all races for a single stop.

Even though officers submitted details about the reason for each stop and the outcome, the “reason for stop” entries appear as indiscernible numbers not shown on the questionnaires used.

Other entries are also muddied by a high volume of vague answers.

The “reason for presence” entered by half of all San Diego Police and County Sheriff’s deputies, for instance, was simply “NA.” Another 26 percent marked “patrol.”

San Diego Agencies Weigh in

San Diego Police officials said the feedback submitted by officers directly to the attorney general was not shared with them, but some pilot participants did complain about the amount of time the data took to submit, which was more detailed than stop data already collected by the department, said San Diego Police Assistant Chief Chuck Kaye.

“At no time were we invited to the table to discuss the proposed legislation and how it might impact the delivery of services or how it might identify bias,” Kaye said. “The hope is that the (new law’s) requirements will not impede individual department services.”

Time is precious. As it is, zero to 20 percent of an officer’s time on duty is uncommitted, even though the golden standard is up to 40 percent, Kaye said.

San Diego police spokesman Lt. Scott Wahl said officers make 140,000 traffic stops a year, and respond to 520,000 calls for service. He said last year, just 15 race-related complaints were filed against officers: Seven were withdrawn, and eight complaint investigations exonerated the officer.

“There is no profession more committed to ensuring that bias is not a factor,” Wahl said. “I think some of the most unbiased people in society are police officers. We stand shoulder to shoulder with all nationalities … all walks of life.”

At the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, spokesman Ryan Keim said in a statement their pilot data represents just 0.0015 percent of the 214,000 average deputy-initiated contacts a year, and it “was not intended for any statistical analysis. The data pool is not large or dynamic enough to be representative of any larger-trends.” Keim said he could not produce a larger dataset, because, “we don’t have that information compiled in one location.”

The Sheriff’s Department is working on developing a mobile app for deputies to enter stop data in the field, though, and is waiting for the attorney general’s office to finalize the inputs for the new law before tailoring the app to match, Keim said.

“We have a talented and diverse department that continually partners and works to build trust with all segments of the community on a daily basis,” Keim said. “Our commitment to community-oriented policing has dropped crime rates to historic lows and transformed San Diego into one of the safest urban counties in the country.”

California’s largest law enforcement agencies will have to submit their first annual stop report required by the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 by April 2019. Other agencies will follow, with full implementation by April 2023.

    This article relates to: Must Reads, Police, Public Safety, Racial Profiling, State Government

    Written by Ashly McGlone

    Ashly is an investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego. She can be reached at ashly.mcglone@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5669.

    21 comments
    Michael Freedman
    Michael Freedman

    Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister:

    "There are lie, damn lies...and statistics!"


    'nuff said

    Jay Byrd
    Jay Byrd

    Some groups continue to tie the hands of the police at all levels.  This is just an attack from a different flank. Don't hassle the illegals. Before you shoot, do a psychological test.  Double check to make sure the gun is not a toy.  Don't shoot if there is only a knife coming at you.  Hell, between the Black Thugs Matter group and the groups wanting all of Mexico made citizens, our laws are being watered down.  On top of that, there are our politicians looking for future voters. Sanctuary cities and states look better if minority crimes look less than what they actually are.  So, run a study.  Give the results you choose to share.  Make the minority of choice look like it is all due to racism and spank the police.  Anarchy will follow.  Extreme??  Every little chunk out of our legal system takes us there.  I don't believe anything from politicians with a voter registration goal.  They would sell my soul for 1 vote.  

    joe vargo
    joe vargo subscriber

    For me, the data is inconclusive. It doesn't say whether individuals were pulled over in La Jolla or City Heights. There's a difference. I'd like to think Mr. Wahl's words were true but that Governski video.

    craig Nelson
    craig Nelson

    Not sure if I missed it in the article, but does the % of population include illegal aliens?  Certainly they are driving so they would be included in the number pulled over - if not included in the population then there is an inherent flaw in the study. 

    Also, should the % be compared to the % of crimes committed rather than population? 

    Steve Miller
    Steve Miller subscribermember

    @rhylton I respect and appreciate your interest and energy on this topic.  I agree it's worth drilling deeper and getting a greater understanding.  The question of "is the pattern due to racial profiling or due to other variables correlated with race/ethnicity" cannot be answered without having those other variables also collected.  If the variables I think are of interest are not reported (reason for stop, geographic location of stop, age of person stopped, economic attributes of person stopped such as income, employment status), probation/parole status, time of day, and only race is reported, then the pattern of stops by race may be intriguing but cannot be analyzed in ways I would find meaningful.


    For instance, if a simplistic theory is poor people get stopped more than non-poor people (however one chooses to measure this) then I would need that variable to make such a study.  If I know that black and hispanic people are more likely to be poor and are more often stopped, then that would be consistent with such a theory.  But, it could be solely due to racial profiling or solely due to poor/non-poor or due to some other variables that are also correlated with race such as probation/parole status.  (Don't get me started on unfair enforcement of drug laws leading to such probation/parole status.) If such variables are being collected and can be obtained for this dataset, please provide the URL where I can download a more complete dataset and I would dust off ancient SAS/SPSS skills and take a deeper look.  But, without the ability to try to examine other variables, the pattern of stops by race/ethnic is just not, in itself, useful enough for me to form any conclusion about profiling being the root cause of the difference in the stop rates.

    Steve Miller
    Steve Miller subscribermember

    There are many correlated variables in play.  First question is why do people get pulled over?  Presumably actual driving is one factor, condition of vehicle (taillight, headlight out, expired registration) is another.  What other factors are there?


    Then, what is the distribution by race/ethnicitiy of drivers, vehicles having such characteristics?  For instance, I would be expired registration is more common in low income neighborhoods.  To really look at profiling you'd want to consider the population sizes associated with each reason to pull someone over and then look at the percentages of people actually pulled over FOR THAT REASON.


    Now, I happen to believe there is profiling.  But, as a trained sociologist, I would not say any of the coarse data currently shown could be used make any conclusions.  I do know that I drive just as fast now as I did when I was 20 but I get pulled over a hell of a lot less because I've learned to be less conspicuous in my choice of car and my speeding ;)  So, I would also suggest adding age as a variable.  I believe the poor and minorities tend to have a higher percentage of younger people. 

    rhylton
    rhylton subscriber

    @Steve Miller  My reply concerns the SDPD. I wish that you had taken the time to fetch and analyze the data, as I have. The Data is on San Diego's website and the issue that this article addresses is standard operating procedure, as far as the SDPD is concerned. The visualizations that I have included, are of data for 2014-2015, the same period used by SDSU's analysts. I invite you to read that piece of work, paying particular attention to how Asians are represented. I have done the similar examinations for 2016 and the first half of 2017.

    mike johnson
    mike johnson subscriber

    Just a question I never see answered. Maybe because there are more blacks and Mexican pulled over is because there are a lot more cops patroling in that area. A lot of time the amount of cops is generated by the amount of crime and the neighbors complaining a certain area and crime in their area. Thus more cops than in a low crime area.

    Ashly McGlone
    Ashly McGlone

    @mike johnson Police staffing levels do vary division to division across town, but pilot participants were not concentrated in one area or another.

    rhylton
    rhylton subscriber

    @Ashly McGlone @mike johnson I may be mistaken but last time I looked the highest crime rates are not where the Blacks and Hispanics live. I believe that you did not mean to say "more cops in a low crime area" for your speculation says the opposite

    Jay Byrd
    Jay Byrd

    Part of the problem could be the illegals without having been tested driving around.  Of course, because of the traitors running this town, nothing much happens to them when caught. Besides, who really are the minorities these days?  With the invasion from the south, perhaps minority status has changed in SD. Certainly seems that way when I go grocery shopping.

    Tom Davis
    Tom Davis

    Racist: Expecting officers to determine ethnicity based on physical appearance and other superficial clues


    Try this: Drive around San Diego looking for cars that should be pulled over for violating driving laws. 


    Can you tell the ethnicity or even skin color of the driver when you are behind the car???


    Identify the ethnicity of each of the drivers in the photo below.

    joe vargo
    joe vargo subscriber

    @Tom Davis 


    Respectfully, I'm not a peace officer. I did drive big trucks around this fine country, 30,000 miles a month at 55 mph.

    TJ Apple
    TJ Apple subscribermember

    More interested in who is committing crimes rather than who is being 'pulled over'.

    rhylton
    rhylton subscriber

    @TJ Apple Assuming that there is some validity to your uninformed statement, pray tell how pulling someone over for a real or pretextual traffic offence has anything to do with crime. Think before you write, or, failing that, become more familiar with the subject and the law.


    You would make sense if your comment were "More interested in who is driving badly."

    philip piel
    philip piel subscriber

    @rhylton @TJ Apple


    As someone whose done years of research on this subject (watch the TV show Cops) pulling someone over for a minor infraction often leads to the discovery of serious criminal activity. Please remember to put on your oxygen mask before helping others with their's, I know the air is thin up on that horse you ride...

    rhylton
    rhylton subscriber

    @TJ Apple Philip, I missed you. And, you remain constant for your comments continue to make no sense. It is well established that while pulling someone over may lead to (the discovery of) serious criminal activity; the murder of those pulled-over being the most dire. It is also true that the numbers for San Diego, and everywhere else, show that the discovery is not often. Those same numbers also show the inversion of results for the targeted, groups. To put it another way, targeting by race, as practiced, it is a waste of police resources. Look at "HitRates" for proof, and allow yourself to be persuaded by facts.


    It is San Diego's data that says so. Regret that I bought you tidings that created no joy. I am going riding now.

    TJ Apple
    TJ Apple subscribermember

    @rhylton You seem to be the only one struggling to understand what was written.

    rhylton
    rhylton subscriber

    @TJ Apple @rhylton The operative word in the puerility that masquerades as a comment is "seem."

    Jay Byrd
    Jay Byrd

    So clear to me.  Whites are far more superior drivers.  Others just like to throw out the race card instead of facing  reality. Free crying towels to be distributed Christmas Eve.