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San Diego Groups Calls For End To 'Pretext Stops' By Police

San Diego police officers monitor protesters during a demonstration against police brutality, San Diego, June 1, 2020.
Mike Damron
San Diego police officers monitor protesters during a demonstration against police brutality, San Diego, June 1, 2020.

A group of progressive San Diego County organizations Monday unveiled a list of policies they say will combat over-policing in minority communities and increase accountability of local law enforcement.

The Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency, formed in 2016 in response to a study about racial profiling in San Diego, is recommending a host of reforms they are calling Police Accountability Now. The coalition includes Alliance San Diego, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, Center on Policy Initiatives, Pillars of the Community and the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

VIDEO: Activists Release Proposals About Over-Policing Of Minority Communities In San Diego

Topping the group's list recommendations is a law that would prohibit both "pretext stops," when an officer suspects criminal activity but does not have probable cause to make an arrest; and "consent searches," when an officer looks for contraband with a suspect's permission rather than obtain a warrant.

A city-commissioned study on racial profiling released in 2016 found that pretext stops and consent searches were a source of disparities in how officers treat people of color versus white people. Blacks and Latinos were more likely to be searched during stops but less likely to be found with contraband, the study found.

"Our goal is to build trust with the community, but you can't begin to build trust until we make sure that every community member is treated the same," said Bishop Cornelius Bowser, director of Shaphat Outreach.

The group is also recommending some low-level offenses be decriminalized, particularly those associated with homelessness, and that more cities create independent civilian-led oversight bodies with the power to investigate allegations of police misconduct. Such a reform is likely to appear on the November ballot in the city of San Diego — something the group supports.

"But the city of San Diego is not the only city that should adopt an independent and community-led commission on police practices," said Genevieve Jones-Wright, executive director of Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance. "Every city in San Diego County must follow suit."

They are asking supporters to join in a week of action, which includes contacting elected officials to gain support for the reform proposals.

San Diego Groups Calls For End To 'Pretext Stops' By Police
Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

Corrected:
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated when the Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency formed.