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City Releases Preliminary Findings In Long-Awaited Study On Police Racial Profiling

Initial results of the independent study on San Diego police stops lack details

Photo caption: The San Diego Police Department seal is seen on an officer's uniform in this ...

Photo credit: 10News

The San Diego Police Department seal is seen on an officer's uniform in this undated photo.

City Releases Preliminary Findings In Long-Awaited Study On Police Racial Profiling

GUEST:

Megan Burks, reporter, KPBS News

A San Diego City Council committee will hear the results of a much-delayed report that aims to answer whether San Diego police disproportionately pulled over drivers of color.

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SDSU Study on SDPD Traffic Enforcement

SDSU Study on SDPD Traffic Enforcement

A digital presentation of the preliminary findings of SDSU's review of SDPD traffic stop data from 2014 and 2015.

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A San Diego City Council committee will hear the results of a long-awaited report Wednesday that aims to answer whether San Diego police disproportionately pulled over drivers of color in 2015 and 2014.

SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman Statement On Initial Findings

“The San Diego Police Department strives to provide the highest quality police services to the community we so proudly serve. Understanding every human being has bias, we take a proactive approach to confronting this head on. We have enhanced our training program over the past two years to integrate a variety of courses in our annual command training and advanced officer training. We have provided courses that cover procedural justice, effective interaction, and emotional intelligence with the specific intent of increasing self awareness in our employees. We also have a non-biased based policing course that has been presented to all our patrol staff over the past two years. These courses are at the forefront of our community policing philosophy. We want every citizen to feel safe in their community, feel valued in their opinion and feel listened to by their police department. We invite the community to have a voice in our new officer training which every new recruit attends. In order to be more transparent, we open up our training classes to our community to attend as well. Inside SDPD allows citizens the opportunity to receive some of the same training we provide to our officers on subjects that include, use of force, procedural justice, and non-biased based policing. As we continue to look for more ways to improve the level of services we provide we encourage members of our community to attend one of the next Inside the SDPD classes. The next class is offered on November 4th, 2016.”

A San Diego City Council committee will hear the results of a long-awaited report Wednesday that aims to answer whether San Diego police disproportionately pulled over drivers of color in 2015 and 2014.

According to preliminary results released in presentation slides online, San Diego State University researchers found some racial disparities did exist among the traffic stop data for black, Hispanic and white drivers, but not always. The presentation also appears to show that among drivers pulled over, Hispanic and black motorists were searched more often than white motorists. It does not include the justification for the traffic stops, nor does it detail what prompted the searches.

Greg Ridgeway, a University of Pennsylvania associate professor of criminology and statistics, said the lack of supplemental information makes it difficult to draw conclusions from the presentation.

“The next question is either, San Diego PD indeed has an issue that they are over-searching black drivers, or that there is some other difference between these black and white drivers that would explain that difference," said Ridgeway, who did not contribute to the study but helped develop the unique research technique used for the report and has used it in other cities.

The difference between the drivers could be a warrant out for one's arrest, which would lead to a search, he added.

Researchers who conducted the study will share the presentation at a 2 p.m. meeting of the San Diego City Council Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

An SDSU spokesman said, other than Wednesday's presentation, the researchers would not comment on their findings until a final report is submitted.

Jen Lebron, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said city staff will work with the researchers to review the initial results and finalize a report within 30 days.

"The community deserves a report that has been thoroughly reviewed to ensure it can be a useful tool to further strengthen the bonds between our police department and our neighborhoods," Lebron said in an emailed statement. "We look forward to having a meaningful discussion about the report upon its completion and public release."

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties said in a written statement it had expected more information would be released ahead of the meeting, considering the report has been delayed multiple times.

"It is disappointing that despite having months of notice about the [council committee] hearing, the Mayor’s office is unable to produce a complete analysis and instead offers the public a collection of slides that does not contextualize the data in a way that allows for the average person to interpret its meaning or provide constructive feedback," said Cheryl Alethia Phelps, a communications consultant for the ACLU, in an email Tuesday. "This is not transparency."

Councilwoman Marti Emerald ordered the review in 2015 after community members spoke out about alleged biased policing by San Diego officers.

Previous reports on race and policing in San Diego were inconclusive, and the department had stopped collecting the data.

The SDSU review of 2015 and 2014 traffic stops used a technique called the "Veil of Darkness" to offer a more nuanced review of the data, beyond a comparison of how often certain racial groups are stopped and population data. The latter technique is flawed, the department said, because the city's driving population is always changing.

"Although cities often use population figures as an estimated comparison, this is particularly challenging in San Diego, with its proximity to the border, designation as a world tourist destination, major military presence, and other factors not considered in population data," a 2014 report said.

The preliminary findings of this latest report by SDSU "raises more questions than answers," the ACLU said in its statement.

In the presentation, the researchers list recommendations for the department, including "acknowledge and address existence of racial/ethnic disparities" and increase "officer training and oversight." However they do not elaborate on their conclusions.

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