City Council Accepts SDSU Traffic Racial Profiling Report

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Councilmember Georgette Gomez

Feb 28, 2017 (San Diego) The vote came at 6 in favor and two against, with Lorie Zapft, who represents District Two, not present. The report was commissioned by then Council Member Marti Emerald, who wanted to know if there was an issue with profiling in the San Diego Police Department. SDPD has officers collect contact cards every time they do a traffic stop. These cards have relevant data, such as race, age and of course where the stop happened and the division. They lack a few other pieces of data, that will be mandated by Assembly Bill 953.

 

Some of the elements that the law will now require agencies to report are:

* How long a stop was. Location and type of stop.
* The reason for the stop.
* Why was the officer dispatched.
* Witness interviews.
* If this was citizen-initiated?
* Whether this was due to a warrant?
* Other programed situations such as DUI checkpoints or crowed control
* Welfare checks
* Whether this is a School resource officer?
* Whether there was probable cause
* Parole Violation
* Consensual search
* What actions were taken by the officer?

There are other data points including the use of force and officer safety. The officers are also supposed to capture the following under the bill:

. Asian or Pacific Islander
2. Black or African American
3. Hispanic or Latino/a
4. Middle Eastern or South Asian
5. Native American
6. White

This is what the study looked at. They did find that there were disparities in how often African Americans and Hispanics were stopped when compared to whites. They also found that contraband was reported found more often with whites than with minorities. The findings did not surprise community members who have said this is happening over the last few decades. A similar report was commissioned in 2002 and had similar findings. That report gathered some dust, since we are still, fifteen years later. dealing with the same issue.

This is why Council Member David Alvarez raised questions. His first was “all that there is before us is to accept this report. And have enough data for the PSLN (Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods) committee. That is all we are taking action on.”

Alvarez was troubled. This is because of the history that we have had in the past. AB 953 will drive more action than in the past. At the very least, officers will be required to collect more data while in the field. However, Police Chief Zimmerman and the president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, William Marvel, are already warning that this will mean they need more people. The department is understaffed, and having to fill all this data, assuming they get the software needed in a timely fashion, will mean more time in administrative duties for officers in the field.

Chief Zimmerman has yet to admit the department has an issue with racial profiling and she went out of her way to explain how training is done by the department. They have always done far more training than required by the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST). They are already training officers in implicit bias, which is one of the recommendations from the SDSU team.

One of the issues raised by the researchers, but also already underway, is work with the community. Among them is the work being done by the Community Assistance Support Team. These are African American Clergy that will respond to crisis situations, such as the Alfred Olango shooting, where we saw them in action. They served to calm down tensions and keep things peaceful.

 

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CAST at The Olango Shooting, File Photo

 

Bishop Cornelius Bowser addressed the Council the council regarding this. He is part of the Community Assistance Support Team. He thanked Chief Zimmerman for the work they do in training officers and within the community. He said that “police reform requires both an independent body and a government body to work together to bring an end to racial disparity in traffic stops.”

“To get to this process of reform we must ask ourselves what can we learn from this process, and how can we make sure that we eliminate racial disparities in traffic stops. The latest data available shows there were 63 million contacts between a 16-year-old or older at least once with a police officer in this country in a single year. 42 percent of those were traffic stops. It is this stops where police officers are most likely to talk to people. It is where police officers need to be prepared and be understanding of their racial bias so they can practice these up to date, or modern day skills of engagement.”

There were 60 people who spoke and this includes the ACLU, who’s recommendations were not just embraced by Bishop Bowser and CAST, but also by the Council of Islamic-American Relations, as well as Alliance San Diego. and the National Action Network We are posting their recommendations in full.

1. Begin collecting the data required under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 immediately after the regulations are finalized, including the data points recommended by the SDSU study authors.As noted in the Department’s presentation, there is a database being created that law enforcement agencies can choose to participate in. The creation of this database does not mean that SDPD should take a ‘wait and see’ approach.
The California Justice Information Services (CJIS) is developing software that law enforcement agencies can use to collect information required by the new state law, but CJIS has stated publically that law enforcement agencies should not wait until the last minute to begin to evaluate what improvements their internal systems may need.

It would be great to learn today from the Chief:
1. How SDPD is preparing to comply with the new law?
2. What work has been to date?
3. What conversations have been had with CJIS about the database, and any information on expected completion date of the state database?
4. Is SDPD considering using the CJIS database?
2. Our second recommendation is to require an annual independent Racial Impact Report be presented to the City Council analyzing the data collected under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act. The report should include information about any racial bias complaints and the outcomes of such complaints, as well as any action taken by SDPD to mitigate racial biases.
3. One of the more troubling findings in the report is the disparity around searches. Blacks and Latinos were nearly twice as likely to be searched and less likely to have contraband.
Our third recommendation would require an officer to obtain written consent that includes information about an individual’s rights to refuse or revoke consent at any time, for consensual searches.The Task Force on 21st Century Policing offers a similar recommendation regarding consensual searches.
Related to consensual searches, we would also like to see SDPD required to obtain a warrant to collect DNA from a child or adult. And for there to be clear limitations on how long this data may be retained. There is no reason to justify taking DNA from children without getting a warrant from a judge.
4. Another troubling disparity from the report was around field interviews, Blacks were nearly three times more likely to have field interviews than whites, yet were less likely to have contraband. Given the stark disparities it is important that SDPD change their approach to field interviews.
Our fourth recommendation is that officers advise people that a Field Interview encounter is consensual and they are free to leave if they choose. A person’s written consent should be obtained for the field interview.
5. The SDSU study recommends that SDPD develop a policy regarding how traffic stops are done. Our fifth recommendation is to support SDSU’s recommendation – and also that a prohibition of pretext stops be a key component of this policy.
We would like to see this Council direct the Chief to present SDPD’s policy proposal to community stakeholders, including the Community Review Board on Police Practices, Citizens’ Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations, and Gang Commission for feedback; and to return to the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhood Committee with a policy for review by June 2017.
6. Our sixth recommendation is about accountability. Because everyone understands that policy that isn’t implemented is meaningless, and that accountability is essential for effective implementation.
We support the study’s recommendation that SDPD integrate stop data into the EarlyIntervention System.
7. Our seventh recommendation is to support the study’s call for the data to be made public as part of the City’s Open Data Portal.
8. Our eighth and final recommendation is that SDPD regularly update the PSLN Committee on its progress toward implementing the study’s recommendations, and any additional steps they have taken to address identified disparities.

 

In the end the questions raised by Council-member David Alvarez remain. He was joined in the no vote by Georgette Gomez, who represent the same district that Marti Emerald used to represent. However, due to AB 953, we do expect to see changes in the future. This bill was proposed and shepherd through the legislature by Dr. Shirley Webber, and it is part of a group pf bills that seek to reform police forces in California, but also increase cooperation and legitimacy. This is a problem that Policing in the 21st Century did find. Perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a change, from an occupying force to guardians.

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