A long-awaited study of county sheriff’s department data found that people of color are arrested, searched and subjected to force at higher rates than their white counterparts, even after taking into account factors such as high rates. crime and poverty.
The report, commissioned by the ministry and released Thursday, adds to a growing list of studies that have shed light on the types of racial disparities that communities of color have long decried.
Produced by the Center for Policing Equity, the report found that while blacks make up just under 5% of the county’s population, 18% of all use of force incidents were against blacks. In addition, 11% of pedestrians stopped by MPs were black.
Many advocates for police reform say prejudice and systemic racism are at the heart of the disparities.
Departments often push back criticism, saying racial disparities are not synonymous with prejudice and are more likely to be fueled by factors beyond the control of an officer or deputy, such as homelessness, mental illness and criminal activity.
The recently published report attempts to take these external factors into account. And while the study did not attribute disparities to assistant bias, the researchers said some findings, such as the rate of black pedestrians being stopped and the amount of force used against blacks, were likely influenced in some way. significant by the practices of the department or the behavior of the assistants.
The Sheriff’s Department commissioned the study from the Center for Policing Equity, a nonprofit organization that uses data to help police departments identify and eliminate bias, in 2019 – the same year the police department from San Diego commissioned its own study from the Yale University-based think tank. in New Haven, Connecticut. The results of the police department’s study were released in June and found similar disparities.
The sheriff’s department report analyzes data on strength, traffic stops and pedestrian stops from 2016 to 2020. In a statement, the agency said it commissioned the study in an effort to better understand its data stop and eliminate racial and identity profiling.
“This is a real effort to improve our policies, practices and interactions with the public in order to foster an inclusive community where everyone feels safe, respected, heard and valued,” the statement said. Sheriff’s Lt. Amber Baggs added in an email Thursday that the department leadership “accepts the change and is committed to providing fair, impartial and respectful service.”
Many of the study’s findings mirror those presented in similar studies, including a San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of nearly 500,000 police and deputy stops released earlier this year.
The researchers found that although black people were more likely to be arrested, they were arrested at rates similar to whites and were released with warning or no action taken at rates similar to whites who took been arrested.
Data on traffic stops showed that no racial group had been disproportionately arrested. However, once arrested, Latinos were more likely to be searched than whites, although they were less likely to have some form of contraband. Of all racial groups, whites have been found smuggled the most frequently.
Almost all racial groups, except people from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, were more likely than whites to be arrested for equipment violations, such as driving with a broken tail light.
The researchers used a statistical technique called regression analysis, which takes into account how factors other than race, such as neighborhood characteristics, poverty, and crime rates, contribute to a person’s likelihood of dying. ‘be arrested and to what extent.
Even after taking these factors into account, black pedestrians were stopped 3.5 times more often and were four times more likely to be subjected to force than whites, according to the report.
“The results of this analysis show that the frequency of force is not fully explained by (or predicted by) these external factors,” the report read. “It is therefore likely that factors under the control of the department, such as department policy and practice or the behavior of officers, play an important role in determining when, where and who is subjected to force.” “
The sheriff’s department disputed the use of force study findings because the analysis included incidents that occurred in the county’s seven jails.
“The demographics of our prison population consist of individuals arrested by nearly two dozen county agencies, not strictly the jurisdictions we serve or those used for comparison data,” the department said.
However, the researchers suppressed incidents of force that occurred in prisons during their regression analysis.
Over the past two years, the sheriff’s department has made some reforms, including a long-sought ban on carotid restraint and increased racial bias training. The department is also working with the county’s new Mobile Crisis Response Team, which sends behavioral health clinicians to mental health emergencies instead of assistants or officers.
Yet these changes fall short of the re-imagining of public safety that many police reform advocates hope to see.
Francine Maxwell, president of the NAACP San Diego chapter, said the data echoed what people in black communities have been saying for decades. “We have lived the experience,” she said. “That’s enough data.”
“Report after report, when does the real change begin? You can’t keep killing trees, ”Maxwell said.
Maxwell quoted civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer as saying, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. This is what these reports do.
She said the report also left her considering next year’s vote to replace Sheriff Bill Gore, who has held the post for 12 years and is not running for re-election.
“We need to ensure that people are educated and registered, so that their voices are heard in the next election,” she said. “This report does nothing but talk and excites us about getting people on the electoral roll.”
Yusef Miller of the Racial Justice Coalition also said the region needed “radical change”. And he too was “not at all surprised by the disparity”.
“This is what we have been fighting against for all these years. We shouted it from the rooftops, ”said Miller, co-founder of the North County Equity and Justice Coalition.
“It’s just when we get data to back it up that we need someone who’s willing to do something, instead of trying to reinterpret that data to make it seem less important. “
Although the report does not list any specific recommendations for the sheriff’s department, the researchers encouraged the department to work with community stakeholders to better understand when and how disparities occur so that interventions can be developed, particularly those rooted in politics.