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Data: San Diego Police And Sheriff’s Deputies Target Minorities

 March 29, 2021 at 1:47 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The data has been consistent for years study after study has revealed police and Sheriff's deputies disproportionately target minorities for stops searches, arrest, and use of force a new analysis by the San Diego union Tribune examined nearly half a million stops by San Diego police officers and sheriff deputies between July of 2018 and December of 2020 Lindsay. Winkling a watchdog reporter with the San Diego union Tribune joins us to discuss that data. Lindsay, welcome and thanks for having me. So what were the findings, the main findings from your analysis? Speaker 2: 00:38 I think notably, we found that one in five stops, um, initiated by the San Diego police department, uh, involved black people, even though black individuals make up less than 6% of the city's population. So that's a pretty big gap. Uh, San Diego offers officers were also more likely to use force on minority groups, including black and Latino people than whites. Uh, Sheriff's deputies were more likely to use force on native Americans, both departments searched black and native American people at higher rates than whites and at the Sheriff's department. Um, those two minority groups were actually less likely to be found with contraband and white people when they were searched. Um, and sort of overall San Diego police arrested. I mean, everybody native Americans, blacks, Pacific Islanders and Latinos at higher rates than white individuals. Speaker 1: 01:28 And these findings are mirrored statewide as well. Speaker 2: 01:32 Yeah, absolutely. I mean, these are very much in line with what we have seen at the state level. And, um, to be honest, these are pretty in line with what we see across the country at police departments. What's been Speaker 1: 01:44 The response from the Sheriff's department and police department about this data. Speaker 2: 01:49 Well, I will say that this sort of data doesn't surprise police leaders. I mean this sort of data doesn't really surprise anybody at this point. I mean, when you talk to community leaders, when you talk to, um, when you talk to police leaders, I mean they have access to this, they know what the disparities are. Um, they know that there are disparities across the board. I think when you're talking about the difference in how community activists see this data or experts, and when you see and how police departments generally look at this data, um, it's the cause of the disparity is what's under debate, right? Because community leaders, community activists, experts are very quick to point out that, um, bias that racism explicit and implicit are, are fueling these disparities. And while police leaders are, are willing to acknowledge that bias, likely plays a role in disparity, which I think is kind of, I mean, we've really come a long way that that police leaders are, um, identifying that as well. Um, but they feel that other, uh, factors are more likely fueling disparity, um, at, at greater levels than officer bias. Speaker 1: 03:02 Here's sheriff bill Gore's response from 2019 after data from a campaign zero report showed blacks were twice as likely as whites to be stopped. Speaker 3: 03:11 I'm not saying there isn't a problem. I don't know. I want, and we're going to go out and hire an independent group to come in and look at these statistics. If there's, I want to know what the problem is so I can address it. If there is a problem, I don't want to go off and just assume because 8% of the stops were African-American and only 5% of the population that my deputies are prejudice. There's there's maybe where were these stops? What precinct, what, what beat and how many African-Americans were in that beat that was not really covered in this study. I think if we're going to address the problem, address a problem, we've got to properly identify the problem. I, I'm not putting my head in the sand. If there's a problem, we'll change our training. We'll, we'll do whatever it takes to make sure that my deputies are, are abiding by the laws of this state and the constitution of the state of California. Speaker 1: 04:00 You know, now that that time has passed and there's even more data. Do you think sheriff Gore is putting his head in the sand here? Speaker 2: 04:08 Uh, that's a hard question to answer. I mean, I will say this, uh, the Sheriff's department did partner with the center for policing equity, which is the same, which is the same group at the San Diego police department has partnered with. Um, and I mean, center for policing equity is known, um, for looking at data and coming up with sort of concrete policy changes, um, that are meant to address disparity. I'll be honest though, um, the Sheriff's department, wasn't overly communicative with us about this topic. And so I guess it's hard to say definitively sort of their stance on this, but you know, when you say that it's hard to know if there's a problem. I mean, disparity is a problem. Disparity affects communities, um, and whether or not you feel that officer bias is at the root cause of those disparities. Uh, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be committed to making changes. Speaker 1: 04:59 What's been the response from local organizations about this data and how do they see this problem? Speaker 2: 05:05 You've got a couple of groups in San Diego who've been pushing hard for a ban on consent searches. So consent searches are when an officer can ask to search an individual, even if they don't necessarily suspect that there's kind of wrongdoing happening. Um, and research has shown that those sorts of searches are used disproportionately on people of color. Um, we found in our, uh, analysis that the San Diego police department was more likely to ask to search, uh, the Latino population. So within those consent searches, um, then the white population, despite the fact that white, the white population was more likely to be found with contraband, um, within consent searches. Um, and so they'd like to see those just kind of go away or at the very least have much more stringent, um, rules kind of placed on when they can happen. Um, and they also would like to see an end to things like protectable stops. Speaker 2: 05:53 I mean, that's an, an investigatory tactic that's used by police. You know, if they see an individual who they think might imagine description of something that they're trying to investigate, they can use like a minor traffic violation to pull that person over, um, and to ask more detailed questions. Um, and that's really something that, um, communities would like to see end, but ultimately those changes are sort of built on the foundation of decreasing the amount of interactions that police and community members have, right? Because we know that these disparities exist because certain populations are just being contacted more often. Speaker 1: 06:28 And in your report, you say as evidence of disparities persist, some experts argue that minority communities should not have to prove that racial bias is at the root of such discrepancies. Why is that? Speaker 2: 06:40 Yeah, we know that the history of policing is racist. Um, I mean, they were born out of slave patrols. I mean, this is something that that's not a contested fact really at this point, but I think what that expert was saying, and I think what a lot of people are saying is that it is difficult to prove, um, you know, bias beyond the shadow of a doubt within data, right. Um, it's not impossible, but it's difficult. Um, and I think what a lot of experts who study this data professionally, what they say is that, uh, it should be the burden of proof should be as equally placed on police departments, if not more so, but beyond that, let's focus on addressing disparities. Let's not get caught in the weeds with, you know, where these disparities come from. Let's acknowledge that disparities impact communities. And let's change that. Speaker 1: 07:32 Speaking with Lindsay wrinkly, watched a reporter with the San Diego union Tribune. Lindsay, thank you very much for joining us and thanks so much for having me.

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The San Diego Union-Tribune examined stops of drivers and pedestrians by San Diego law enforcement between July 2018 and December 2020. The data revealed that police and sheriff’s deputies disproportionately target minorities.
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