Report: Cops Across California Continue Racial Profiling at Alarming Rate

CA’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board says data on 2021 police stops proves a renewed demand for reform is urgently needed
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A report released Tuesday by California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board (RIPAB) shows that, in 2021, law enforcement agencies were twice as likely to use force against people cops perceived as Black during vehicle and pedestrian stops. Additionally, teenagers perceived as Black were searched at nearly six times the rate of teens perceived as white. 

The 222-page study explores everything from suggested policy reform to an analysis of use of force among police departments, using data from 58 law enforcement agencies across the state, including 23 of the largest departments in California, the Associated Press reports.

The results, RIBAB says, are disturbing. For instance, its examination of differences between the stop population proportions and residential population proportions found that Black people were stopped 144.2 percent more frequently than should be expected. It also states that Black drivers are about three times more likely to have force used against them. 

The report goes on to cover an array of other factors possibly at play in stop and use-of-force disparities, citing bias in third party calls to cops as one of the biggest.

“The threat or act of calling the police on Black individuals,” the report states, “can be understood as a form of racial intimidation that can cause terror.” One reform RIPAB suggests is the establishment of a uniform definition of “complaint.” 

The disparities noted are a grim echo of an October 22 Catalyst California report which cited data that Black people in Sacramento are nearly five times more likely to be stopped for non-moving violations like registration issues when compared to white people. Meanwhile, in July, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the state attorney general provided data indicating that the disparity between stops for Black drivers compared to white drivers had widened in 11 of the state’s 15 largest law enforcement agencies from 2019 to 2020. The data also showed that Black people were less likely to be found with contraband yet more likely to have force used against them. 

The continued collection of “stop data” began in the wake of Governor Jerry Brown’s 2015 Racial and Identity Profiling Act, a measure meant to uncover and address systemic racism following the sweep of Black Lives Matter protests across the country. All of these studies, however, continue to beg the question of whether matters simply keep getting worse. 

RIPAB noted that the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s patrol unit spent $981 million on stops, compared to the $124 million it spent on service calls in 2019, mirroring public concern that law enforcement is not necessarily working in its best interest. Additionally, RIPAB cited the nearly 600 people killed by police during traffic ticket stops nationally since 2017. During that period, 70 people were killed by police in California traffic stops. 

“If we’re just gathering data, there’s nothing transformative about that,” Oakland police reform advocate John Jones III told the San Francisco Chronicle in July. “We don’t need to quantify the experience; we need to eliminate it.”


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