Black Youth More Likely To Be Detained By San Diego Unified Police
Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego unified school district police department has arrested or detained more than 9,000 young people since 2007 KPBS education reporter Joe Hong dug into the data and found that black youth were disproportionately criminalized on campuses. It's just the way life is. I mean, growing up as a black person, you understand that that's just how society works. I mean, Speaker 2: 00:24 Layla Williams graduated last month from San Diego high school where she was the president of the black student union. She spent her high school career fostering conversation among teachers and students about racism on our campus. She saw this as progress for her school, but she said she also saw an increased presence of police during her time at San Diego high. And she had a persistent feeling that campus police officers targeted black students Speaker 1: 00:46 Coming onto campus. You know, you want your school to be a trusting, safe place. You want to be your, you know, your staff has faith in you trust in you, you know, but when you're coming onto campus and the first thing you see is a security guard or police officer they're, you know, glaring at you. And you're just kind of like, well, dang, does my school even trust Speaker 2: 01:02 San Diego unified is one of the few districts in California that has its own police department. It currently has 37 sworn officers, patrolling campuses and the surrounding streets, a KPBS analysis of arrests and detentions by San Diego unified police over a roughly 12 year period shows that depending on the school year, black youth were more than four times as likely to be arrested than their white counterparts. The data also showed that black youth were more likely than white youth to be arrested for serious crimes like battery and possession of a deadly weapon. Meanwhile, the data show white youth are more likely to be detained for reasons related to mental illness rather than rested for a crime compared to black youth. Um, it shouldn't surprise us that we see these see these same biases within the microcosm, which is the school district. Roger Colvin is a professor in the school of public affairs at San Diego state university. Speaker 2: 01:49 He said the racial disparities in the San Diego unified arrest data mirror those in police departments nationwide, you know, young black boys have a particularly tough time because there is the, um, often the notion that they, uh, require, uh, extra punishment or harsher punishment there's data that, uh, talks about or suggests that young black boys are often thought to be older than they actually are. These facts along with the nationwide push for racial justice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hand of Minneapolis, police officers have led Williams and other students to call for the defunding of San Diego unified. Please. They organize the protest scheduled for today. So not how it goes. There's also a recent graduate of San Diego unified, Speaker 1: 02:35 But the system was created to pass us. And when we talk about defunding the school police, um, there's no, there's no saving assistance. There's no altering assistance. And that was never created for it. Speaker 2: 02:47 The district's police department's budget is currently about $9 million, less than 1% of the overall district budget officials say defunding, the department would make campuses less safe for students. They added the savings. Wouldn't be enough for a significant increase in resources for counseling and mental health services. San Diego unified police, chief Michael Marquez pointing to a more than 50% drop in Russ over the past decade as evidence that campus police are making an effort to decriminalize campus behavior because our kids should get the best service that we can provide them. And so I'm always looking for people that have, you know, coaching experience working with youth pastors, working with youth. And there are times where our vacancies will remain vacant until we can find the right person to work in those environments. San Diego unified board, vice president, Richard Barrera said he supports the spirit of the student activism and agrees that policing needs to change in the district, but he does not want to see the department to funded. I can guarantee that the process that we go through in our district is not a process that's intended to delay change. It's a process that's intended to make sure that the change is the right change brewer and other officials had campus. Police play a pivotal role in ensuring student safety in cases of human trafficking, school shootings and unsafe home environments. He said the district will not make any final decisions about the police budget without a robust survey of its community members. Speaker 1: 04:15 Amy is KPBS education reporter Joe Hong and Joe welcome the data you went through to find the racial makeup of arrests on campus. Was it relatively easy to decipher that or did you have to do it? Speaker 2: 04:29 So the arrest records all contain sort of racial data, uh, gender data, um, they contain like the date that the incident occurred. What what's really challenging though, is kind of constructing a historical narrative and looking at the historical trends across these 12 years Speaker 1: 04:51 Reasonable to assume that San Diego unified officials could have known for some time about this disproportionate arrest number. Speaker 2: 04:59 It would be hard for them to not know that because of their suspension rates are significantly higher for black students and they always have been. And just the trend nationwide is that policing disproportionately affects African American people. So I would assume that San Diego unified knew that there was a problem on the campuses. Speaker 1: 05:20 What happens to students who are arrested by campus police, especially for those serious offenses. You mentioned like battery or possession of a deadly weapon. Speaker 2: 05:29 So there are basically two possible outcomes. One is that the, the youth gets placed into the criminal processing system where they're officially prosecuted. And the other sort of outcome is diversion, or what's called diversion, which either means counseling, community service, any sort of system that quite literally diverts students away from the criminal justice. Um, it would be the other alternative. Speaker 1: 06:00 Would they possibly have a charge like that on their record, even though they're, I guess they're mostly juveniles, right? Speaker 2: 06:07 Yeah. It's hard to say. Um, the data that we have suggests that about half the youth who are arrested or detained by police are referred to the, into the criminal justice system. But when I talked to the police chief, he said that 80, 90% of the arrests go through, um, diversion. So I don't have the data to back up his claim, but it frankly just requires more reporting. Speaker 1: 06:36 So what happens to the school career of a student who gets arrested? Are they suspended? Speaker 2: 06:41 So it depends on the incident. So the criminal policy and the school policies can, are not perfectly aligned, but, um, in most cases like possession of marijuana on campus, possession of a weapon, uh, those require suspensions by, uh, California education code. So yeah, it, it depends on the case, but yes, there are consequences on the school side as well. Speaker 1: 07:06 I know there have been efforts at some schools to move toward restorative justice programs to take offenses at school, out of the criminal realm and find another way to resolve these issues. Is that going on at San Diego unified? Speaker 2: 07:20 Yes, absolutely. So, um, San Diego unified definitely deserves the credit for investing heavily into more counseling, more restorative justice programs. In fact, they, they spend about four times as much on counseling and restorative justice than they do on their own police department. But that said that you still see sort of the racial disparities persisting in the, the arrest and detention data Speaker 1: 07:47 Are these kinds of programs, counseling and restorative justice, the kinds of programs activists are calling for when they are demanding the school police be different. Speaker 2: 07:57 Yes. So the activist really want the, uh, the money that goes into the police to support school psychologists, school counselors, um, these restorative justice programs that really prevent these types of incidents that their schools, rather than sort of the reactive policing. Speaker 1: 08:18 I spoke with San Diego unified police, chief Michael Marquez. And we also spoke with him on this program yesterday. And he said that his department handled 50 threats of mass shootings at schools over the last five years. What do the activists calling for defunding have to say about the role of police in trying to prevent that kind of violence? Speaker 2: 08:41 Yeah, so I think this question really gets to the core of the issue because I think a lot of people see a disinvestment in police officers and diverting those funds into things like restorative justice as sort of contrary to public. But what the activists say is that in these high profile school shooting cases, mental illness was, um, was a significant cause behind these incidents. And activists say that school counselors and school psychologists would be a better solution, a better longterm solution than sort of the reactive policing measures that are currently in place. Speaker 1: 09:16 And tell us more about the protests set for today by students who wants school police defunded, Speaker 2: 09:23 The, uh, the killing of George Floyd back in may. Uh, these students have been posting on Instagram and sort of arguing for the defunding of their school police. And it's led up to this protest today that started at, at noon in front of the school district office. And so number one, they're, they're obviously calling for the defunding of the school deplete police department, but they also want to see more cultural competency among, uh, all school staff, teachers, um, counselors. And they also want just more teachers who are black indigenous and people of color as well. Speaker 1: 10:00 I have been speaking with KPBS education reporter Joe Hong, Joe. Thank you. Thanks for having me. Speaker 3: 10:10 [inaudible].