SDPD Didn't Need Additional $200K To Implement New Anti-Racial Profiling Law
Statewide law enforcement groups initially opposed a California law intended to combat racial profiling because they said its data collection requirements would cost extra time and money. But the San Diego Police Department returned nearly all the money it received to implement the law, and KPBS found other agencies are handling the costs in different ways.
The Racial and Identity Profiling Act mandates California officers document the perceived race, ethnicity and other identifying information about people they stop, plus details about the encounter. That information is submitted to the state for analysis. The Peace Officers Research Association of California and the California State Sheriffs' Association early on raised concerns that the requirements, which began in July for the state’s largest agencies, would be expensive.
In February 2017, then-Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman also mentioned potential RIPA-related expenses to the city council but didn't have an estimate because final data collection regulations had not yet been released. Later in May, multiple council members requested an additional $200,000 to cover the cost of implementation.
SDPD Lieutenant Jeff Jordon said the money was intended to pay for the development of new tools to meet the mandate, but the agency instead received a free mobile application and program from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
"Those costs didn’t occur. We didn’t need to spend much of that money, very minimal exactly," Jordon said in an interview.
Ultimately, the department spent $6,228, Jordon said, and the remaining $193,772 went back to the city's general fund at the end of the fiscal year in June, a mayor's office spokesman confirmed.
KPBS requested documents detailing the expenses but has not yet received them.
The small amount of money the department did spend went toward software licenses for cell phones and minicomputers to be used by mobile units, such as bike patrols, Jordon said in a follow-up email.
The hand-held computers are being used in the field, but the cell phones, of which the department had hoped to purchase more, were "unsupported" by the department's virtual private network, he said.
Still, Jordon said the law is costing the department because officers are spending more time filling out forms and less time policing. He said it takes an average of three minutes to document information required under the law but that adds up when the department is conducting about 15,000 stops a month.
"You multiply that out in terms of out-of-service time in hourly costs, it goes into hundreds of thousands of dollars," Jordon said, adding the department will seek reimbursement from the state for officers’ time and other RIPA-related expenses, such as technology updates.
The police department and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department began collecting the data in July, along with the state's largest law enforcement agencies.
Those include California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the San Francisco Police Department.
Smaller agencies will follow in waves beginning in 2019.
Neither the San Diego nor San Bernardino county sheriff's departments got additional funding to implement RIPA.
San Bernardino, which is using San Diego County’s data collection tool, calculated its costs to be $1.37 million — that included training, development, administrative and operational expenses, spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said. That does not take into account the time required of supervisors to audit deputies' data entries, she said.
A San Diego County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman told KPBS the agency isn’t seeking reimbursement from the state at this time, but is currently looking at RIPA-related “time and costs” and may revisit the topic at a later date.
Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, said the organization was initially concerned about the costs of RIPA implementation because it was unclear if the state would create a tool for departments to use to log details about their stops.
Marvel, a San Diego police officer who also sits on the state RIPA Board, said those worries were partially alleviated when the California Department of Justice created a resource, and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department shared its technology with other departments. That could help agencies save money, Marvel said.
But he expects the cost of officers' time spent filling out the reports — which can be reimbursed by the state — to be substantial.
"I think it’s too early to determine the overall costs of the program. I still do think and believe that it will be pretty expensive for the state," Marvel said.
The RIPA board will review the police stop data and publish its findings in January 2020.