National Action Network's Shane Harris speaks
Local activists gathered on Monday (December 5) to call for action from the San Diego Police Department in the wake of a study released by San Diego State University on racial profiling during traffic stops released late last month.
The study analyzed 259,569 traffic stops between 2014 and 2015. The data found that, though blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be searched following a traffic stop than whites, they were less likely to be found carrying illegal items. Arrest rates, despite the higher incidence of searches and field interviews among people of color, were comparable to those of whites.
"The police department tends to use traffic stops as an investigative tool," said Martha Sullivan of Women Occupy San Diego, a group that advocated for changes to the citizen-led police-review board that culminated in November's overwhelming passage of city Measure G. "This is a very inefficient and ineffective tool, since less than one out of 260 traffic stops result in the discovery of contraband, and less than two percent result in an arrest."
Sullivan called for the prompt implementation of the voter-approved changes and suggested the police shift their focus from traffic stops and searches to investigation of sexual assault reports.
"It's now absolutely a mandate for Mayor Faulconer and the incoming city council to move to make that promise good — to give the community review board on police practices the same power and tools the city's ethics commission has," said Sullivan. "That's independent investigators, independent legal counsel, and subpoena power."
Reverend Shane Harris, president of National Action Network's San Diego chapter, said that a greater effort was needed to ensure a uniform standard of conduct was enforced to create a more equitable environment and better working relationship between police and the community.
"Police should not be able to harass people, to pull them over and intrude upon them because they're black or Latino," Harris told a gathering of assembled media. "We're not anti-police, we're anti-bad-cop, and bad cops need to be taken off of the force. They should not be able to continue to advocate violence in the police force and act like it's nothing."
Harris also urged local authorities to move toward implementation of Assembly Bill 953, a 2015 law introduced by state assemblywoman Shirley Weber that requires collection of data regarding complaints on racial profiling and the establishment of a profiling advisory board.
Included in a list of recommendations laid out by the SDSU report was a call to "acknowledge the existence of racial/ethnic disparities and make combatting such disparities a priority." That much police chief Shelly Zimmerman was willing to concede upon the study's release. She said the department was also examining some of the other recommendations, which also called for enhanced "training and supervision around issues of racial/ethnic disparities" and efforts to "make community engagement a core departmental value."