Despite the number of traffic and pedestrian stops decreasing in 2020, California police were more likely to stop, search and use force against Black residents than white people, a new state police report shows.
The fifth annual report released by the state’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board analyzed millions of traffic stops in five major California cities in 2020 — Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose.
Out of nearly 3 million reported vehicle and pedestrian stops, Black people were twice as likely to be searched than white people, and police were nearly three times as likely to use force on Black people rather than white people.
“This is just something that’s characteristic of policing in the United States and it’s something we’re hoping our data analysis in its entire effort will help close these disparities eventually,” Steven Raphael, co-chair of the Advisory Board said.
In addition to racial bias seen in police use of force and police stops, the board also found that searches conducted on Black people were less likely to turn up anything illegal, indicating bias in the searches being performed. Black and Hispanic people were also more likely to be stopped for minor traffic violations than white people.
Additionally, the study found that transgender women were more than twice as likely to be searched than cis-gendered women. Transgender people were also much more likely to be searched, detained and handcuffed than either cis-gendered men or women. (The full report can be found here.)
Raphael and the board put forward a list of recommendations for how police departments across the state could improve. The report’s findings echo previous ones, which have also shown racial bias in policing.
Raphael said eventually the board hopes to expand their data collection to every police department in California. He hopes this large dataset can help spur changes in how policing happens.
“The fact that we will have this database which is collecting uniform information that’s openly available to the public and will foster analysis is just an amazing tool for both the public to analyze and also law enforcement to analyze and foster better discussion and policy,” Raphael said.
The board’s recommendations from this year’s findings include increased police training, in particular when it comes to LGBTQ+ communities, funding for alternative responses to people in mental health crises, and greater transparency when it comes to officer complaints.
“The data in this report will be used by our profession to evaluate our practices as we continue to strive for police services that are aligned with our communities’ expectations of service,” David Swing, co-chair of the board and past president of the California Police Chiefs Association said in a statement.
This year’s report saw about a 27% decrease in traffic stops across the state overall, though the board attributes that decrease to the pandemic and not to any systemic changes.
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