What SDPD Is Doing With All That Identity Data It Must Collect Under New Mandate
Friday, December 21, 2018
Photo by Roland Lizarondo
San Diego police officers stop hundreds of people a day, and now under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act or RIPA, they must answer multiple questions about the encounters. That includes questions about a person's race, age and gender and why the officer stopped them.
The San Diego Police Department and the seven other largest law enforcement agencies in California will share answers to these and additional questions for a highly anticipated state report on profiling coming in 2020. But local groups are awaiting a city-level analysis the San Diego Police Department is planning to produce.
A coalition of community organizations listed funding for a racial impact report among its budget priorities in a letter to the city council. The proposed $75,000 wasn't included in this year's spending plan, but the department still expects to release a local analysis.
Christie Hill of ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, a budget alliance member, said residents have complained to the organization about instances of profiling.
"We hear it from community members all the time about how they have experienced racial profiling," the deputy advocacy director said.
Hill pointed to a 2016 San Diego State University study of SDPD traffic stops that found Hispanic and black drivers were treated differently in some situations than white motorists, but said analyzing the newly required information would provide a more comprehensive look.
"It’s not just stops that happen in your car but also pedestrian and bicycle stops, which will be two new data points collected here in San Diego," Hill said. "We want to know: Are there disparities, for which groups, and most importantly what is the department doing to address those disparities."
San Diego Police Lt. Jeff Jordon said the department is exploring how to conduct the analysis and what exactly it will contain.
"We’re going to have some researchers who will hopefully come on board, they’re going to say, 'are we asking the right questions?'" Jordon said, noting the the newly mandated information is more complex than data the department voluntarily collected in the past. "Do we now know, with all this information, if we’re really looking at it and we’re really asking the right question to help give us the insights that we want?"
However, he didn't expect the report to include the necessary context and details to identify specific instances of racial profiling.
"It’ll give us broader strokes. It’ll give us a lot of stuff to talk about — disparate treatment, different treatment among communities. It’ll talk about, maybe, or give some researchers ideas how we can narrow that gap and increase equity among communities," he said.
If residents believe they have been the victim of profiling, Jordon said they should file a complaint with the department so the incident is investigated.
In the meantime, the department shared the raw data with city staff to post on San Diego’s website. The department must upload the data in April to the state and the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board will release an analysis in January 2020, but Jordon said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit wants to publish its local data earlier and on a quarterly basis.
A city spokeswoman said she did not have a launch date for the online release of the data. But San Diegans can request the information now under the California Public Records Act and review it on their own.
San Diego State University associate professor Joshua Chanin examined the raw data and worried the average person would have difficulty analyzing the information on his or her own.
"As somebody who's interested in this issue who may not be trained in statistical analysis, I don't know where they would begin," Chanin said.
Chanin is no stranger to police stop data. The researcher helped produce and present the report in 2016 that identified racial disparities.
"There are a lot of steps to take before you can get to the point where I would feel confident in believing the kind of analysis that a layperson has put together," Chanin said.
Still, he said reviewing the data can provide the public with descriptive details about policing, including the people stopped and reasons why. He also said the release of the data is a positive move by the department.
The San Diego Police Department doesn’t have a set timeline for the analysis yet, but Jordon said an independent review is a priority. He said the agency is talking to academic researchers for assistance and is hiring an analyst to help with the influx of data officers are collecting.
The Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board's review of stop data from multiple California law enforcement agencies won't be released for another year, but its annual report that includes details about how the analysis will be conducted is due out next month.
The San Diego Police Department must share data required under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) with the state next year and is planning to produce its own local analysis but is releasing the raw data before then.
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