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New San Diego Police Data Shows Little Change In Rate Of Stops For Black, Hispanic Drivers

A law enforcement officer stops a vehicle at a DUI checkpoint in Riverside, C...

Credit: OfficerGreg via Compfight

Above: A law enforcement officer stops a vehicle at a DUI checkpoint in Riverside, California, March 17, 2011.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald has ordered an independent review of the Police Department's data.

San Diego Councilwoman Marti Emerald has ordered an independent review of police data on racial profiling.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman presented to the City Council's public safety committee Wednesday an update on racial data from traffic stops. Like the last round of numbers, it was inconclusive on whether there's a practice in the department of targeting individuals based on their race.

Emerald has enlisted San Diego State's School of Public Affairs to conduct its own analysis.

Wednesday's numbers don't vary widely from what the department presented in May, when it first responded to calls from citizens and policymakers for greater transparency with data.

From January to December 2014, black and Hispanic drivers were pulled over at rates higher than their share of the driving population. However, the gap narrowed one percentage point for black drivers.

Data On Traffic Stops By Race In 2014 From San Diego State's School of Public Affairs

Asians and other ethnic groups accounted for 15.6 percent of traffic stops by San Diego police in 2014. They were pulled over at a rate less than than their share of the driving population, 20.2 percent. Blacks were pulled over at a rate of 11.2 percent, which is double their rate in the population, 5.5 percent. Hispanic drivers accounted for 30.2 percent of traffic stops but make up 27 percent of San Diego's driving population. And white drivers were pulled over at a rate of 43 percent and make up 47.2 percent of the driving population.

The department's analysis of the data also hasn't changed much.

Drawing on independent studies of traffic stop data in 2000 and 2001, the department says it can't come to any firm conclusions. It says because San Diego attracts tourists, is a border city and hosts several military bases, there isn't a good baseline for its driving population. If the people on its roads are always changing, it can't reliably make comparisons between the race of those stopped and the overall makeup of commuters.

Academic researchers tend to agree measuring racial profiling is tough, but typically not because of changes in the driving population. They say the data must take into account higher crime rates and stronger police presence in traditionally black and Latino neighborhoods.

But it is possible. Criminologist Jeffrey Fagan developed a statistical analysis that took into account those variables in New York City. His reports were used as evidence in court cases challenging stop and frisk tactics there.

Last year, the San Diego Police Department renewed its efforts to record the race of drivers its officers stop. The enhanced data collection came after a Voice of San Diego and KPBS investigation revealed the department had let its checks on racial profiling slip.

The department also responded to community concerns about racial profiling by requiring its officers to wear body cameras. Chief Zimmerman said she'll present early findings from the department's body camera program next month.

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