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

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

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

City Releases Preliminary Findings In Long-Awaited Study On Police Racial Profiling
City Releases Preliminary Findings In Long-Awaited Study On Police Racial Profiling GUEST:Megan Burks, reporter, KPBS News
City Releases Preliminary Findings In Long-Awaited Study On Police Racial Profiling
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.

I am Maureen Cavanaugh, our top story, San Diego city councilmember Scott to hear a presentation about the racial breakdown of traffic stops. The research results were not entirely clear or convincing to several members. And CSU researchers presented some of the key findings of the report which was commissioned a year and a half ago, that the full report submitted has not been released. Earlier today I spoke with Marty Emerald who commissioned the report. We caught up with her at an event in city Heights. Welcome to the program. Thank you very much. After hearing yesterday's presentation, do you feel you have enough information to say if there is racial bias in traffic stops in San Diego? Not entirely, and that is because we did get a PowerPoint presentation. It did indicate that the cases of possible profiling were reduced between 19 -- Excuse me, 2014 and 2015. That appear to be encouraging. We really did not get all the data that we needed to be able to really say for sure if stops were for legitimate reasons or if it was because it was a person of color behind the wheel. There was enough to be cover interest and get us asking more questions. We will have an opportunity to do that on November 30. We talked about the researchers methods yesterday on the show, it is called the veil of darkness, it compares stops made in the daytime with stops made at night. You have confidence in that methodology to determine if racial profiling is a problem? I am not an expert in this kind of scientific work. Apparently this veil of darkness strategy has been used in cities around the country. I think San Diego is about the eighth major city to use this method. What it is basically is measuring the stops that occur between pre-dusk and darkness. So, a three-hour window essentially. The researchers said they were able to capture about 40,000 cases and that was a big enough sampling to be able to determine what is happening with the stops. That is where they got their numbers. That time of day, because researchers were telling us they can actually still see inside of cars to determine if the driver is white or black or Hispanic or Asian and it becomes a little more true to the question of: Was the person stopped because they were a person of color or what? It did not tell us why the stop happened in the first place. This is one of the questions we hope to have answers to what we see the full report. Maureen: during the testimony yesterday, a speaker and at least one councilmember push back on this methodology say people can -- I do not become invisible when the sun goes down. This is perhaps not the best way to determine whether or not there is racial profiling X traffic stops. Guest: has only been rolled out in recent years. This is the eighth major test of the strategy. We will see what comes of it. Again, any judgment for me right now is premature because I haven't seen the full report. I want to stress that I am not speaking on behalf of the Police Department. We began this project about a year and a half ago. While it was delayed somewhat we were interested back then and finding some answers to this issue and these pressing questions. I think it puts us a little bit ahead of the game to comply with the new state law that surely whoever wrote, that law will hopefully give Police Department's tools and direction so that we do not have these pressing questions coming to us about racial profiling. It will change the way data is collected, the way it is used to train officers or to direct officers and how to go about traffic stops. I think San Diego has recognized for some time that we have an issue and that we need to address it seriously. We wanted to find out what the issue really is. Maureen: researchers also found police were not collecting all required information and much of the information they did have was incomplete. Does this motivate the Council to move more quickly to implement AV 953, which does require more in-depth reporting by police? Guest: absolutely. That was a question that kept coming up. How do we begin implementing 953? How do we take this information, how do we expand on it to get the extra information that we need so that we can move ahead with implementing 953. We have some time to do it and we have some challenges. For example, we only started rolling out our new computer assisted dispatch program. That is where we would begin storing information collected in the field. In the meantime, we will continue the stop carts. I think the direction from the researchers is to add more information to that so that we can fill in holes. Another issue is tracking behavior of police officers. This was a recommendation of the report from a year or so ago where the federal government came in and investigated problems with the police department and issue 40 recommendations. One was to create a computerized system that collects data on officers, complaints against officers, traffic stops they make, any number of issues. It is designed to catch issues with officers early. It is also used to help evaluate where the officer is and perhaps what extra support they may need. That is just in its beginning stages. I have been speaking with Marty Emerald. Thank you so much. Thank you, it has been a pleasure.


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