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Cop stop study data veiled in darkness

But enough research released to shed light on black drivers' plight

"We note that based on interviews and talking with [police] officers, these data cards contribute to low morale and there's a certain frivolity to them."

San Diego State University researcher Josh Chanin, on the team that has been combing through 259,000 "stop cards" filled out by San Diego police, told a city-council committee Wednesday (October 26) that the cards are unreliable.

Researchers explained how they used a method known as "veil of darkness" that assumes cops can't see drivers to identify their race or ethnicity after dark and therefore aren't able to racially profile drivers between the hours of 5:30 and 9 p.m. during the times of year when the sun goes down early.

The method has been used in seven other studies, Chanin said. But the method didn't jibe with everyone: a man spoke about getting pulled over after a cop drove by him and did a U-turn — after dark.

The full study was supposed to be released, but the mayor's office pulled it back and selected parts that could be released. (The researchers' contract with the city allows for a 30-day review before it goes public, according to city-council staff.)

"White drivers were stopped less than what the demographic profile of the city may predict," Chanin said, noting that Asians were similarly treated. "Black drivers are 20 percent more likely to be stopped during the day," he said, noting the raw numbers suggest that police pull over young black men at a rate 45 percent higher than young white men.

The numbers changed from 2014 to 2015, with disparities seen in 2014 disappearing the next year, Chanin said. In the five police divisions north of the I-8, traffic stops of black people showed a disparity of 15 percent; south of the I-8, in the four police divisions, white drivers were 20 percent more likely to be pulled over than black drivers and 30 percent more likely than Hispanic drivers.

Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be searched — cars and bodies, but whites were more likely to be carrying guns, drugs, and other contraband. White drivers were given citations more often than black drivers, and the arrest rates were about the same. But the data wasn't great.

"There were 60,000 to 70,000 traffic stops that were not recorded by officers," Chanin said.

With data collected in a method that the researchers said should be discontinued ("veil of darkness") and limits on what the mayor's office would allow the public to see, Norma Chavez-Peterson of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties expressed dissatisfaction.

"The information provided by the mayor's office leaves a lot of questions," said Chavez-Peterson. "The information and analysis were not presented in a way that's easy to understand — we hope the final report will not require a sociologist or statistician to understand."

But it was clear from what was available that people of color were more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched, and less likely to have guns, drugs, or other illegal stuff, Chavez-Peterson said.

Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, who mentioned her time as a police officer, was blunt: "Are you saying there's 67,000 cards out there?" she asked. "In order for a community to trust, we need all the data....

"When I first came on in 2013, I was hearing about racial profiling. I was hoping it was going to get better. My community is telling me it is not getting better."

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"We note that based on interviews and talking with [police] officers, these data cards contribute to low morale and there's a certain frivolity to them."

San Diego State University researcher Josh Chanin, on the team that has been combing through 259,000 "stop cards" filled out by San Diego police, told a city-council committee Wednesday (October 26) that the cards are unreliable.

Researchers explained how they used a method known as "veil of darkness" that assumes cops can't see drivers to identify their race or ethnicity after dark and therefore aren't able to racially profile drivers between the hours of 5:30 and 9 p.m. during the times of year when the sun goes down early.

The method has been used in seven other studies, Chanin said. But the method didn't jibe with everyone: a man spoke about getting pulled over after a cop drove by him and did a U-turn — after dark.

The full study was supposed to be released, but the mayor's office pulled it back and selected parts that could be released. (The researchers' contract with the city allows for a 30-day review before it goes public, according to city-council staff.)

"White drivers were stopped less than what the demographic profile of the city may predict," Chanin said, noting that Asians were similarly treated. "Black drivers are 20 percent more likely to be stopped during the day," he said, noting the raw numbers suggest that police pull over young black men at a rate 45 percent higher than young white men.

The numbers changed from 2014 to 2015, with disparities seen in 2014 disappearing the next year, Chanin said. In the five police divisions north of the I-8, traffic stops of black people showed a disparity of 15 percent; south of the I-8, in the four police divisions, white drivers were 20 percent more likely to be pulled over than black drivers and 30 percent more likely than Hispanic drivers.

Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be searched — cars and bodies, but whites were more likely to be carrying guns, drugs, and other contraband. White drivers were given citations more often than black drivers, and the arrest rates were about the same. But the data wasn't great.

"There were 60,000 to 70,000 traffic stops that were not recorded by officers," Chanin said.

With data collected in a method that the researchers said should be discontinued ("veil of darkness") and limits on what the mayor's office would allow the public to see, Norma Chavez-Peterson of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties expressed dissatisfaction.

"The information provided by the mayor's office leaves a lot of questions," said Chavez-Peterson. "The information and analysis were not presented in a way that's easy to understand — we hope the final report will not require a sociologist or statistician to understand."

But it was clear from what was available that people of color were more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched, and less likely to have guns, drugs, or other illegal stuff, Chavez-Peterson said.

Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, who mentioned her time as a police officer, was blunt: "Are you saying there's 67,000 cards out there?" she asked. "In order for a community to trust, we need all the data....

"When I first came on in 2013, I was hearing about racial profiling. I was hoping it was going to get better. My community is telling me it is not getting better."

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Comments
4

Only 60-70,000 cards not accounted for. Why that's only around 165 or so contacts per day for a year. WTF? Are you kidding me? How about this? We are the tax paying citizens that want answers. You Mr Mayor, are the temporary holder of that office we voted you to. Answer our questions. Now. This is our community and our police department. Not yours or Zimmermans. You temporary schmucks currently holding those jobs need to realize you work for us and we want answers. Not your spin. We want answers and how the hell do you end up not counting 60000 cards? Really. How exactly does this happen in 2016? I forgot. I didn't mean to. What exactly are we supposed to think? That down town is BSing us again and not telling the voters the truth about their police department. We want answers, honest ones so we can move forward and do what we need to do. Stop obfuscating and hoping it will go away. We want to take back control of our police department. Period. Not when you people feel like it.

Oct. 30, 2016

These studies miss a basic point. Overall population is the wrong measure. Stops are dependent on the number of officers work a given area. In the 80's, I worked Downtown/Barrio Logan. 15 cops on a graveyard shift augmented by specialized gang details. It was rare to see a white male or female out after 9PM. Gangmembers, prostitutes and drug users/dealers were the norm. I transferred to Miramar to RB area. At least 4x the population, a higher percentage of whites & Asians, and a much larger area to cover with only 5 patrol officers on graveyard shift. Fewer than one third of the cops, fewer blacks & Hispanics in the local area, and longer drive times between calls meant far fewer stops. When you factor those differences into the calculations, racial profiling goes out the window.

Oct. 31, 2016

This is it exactly. Data in studies like this is cherry picked. To get the "whole truth" all of the measuring parameters need to be fully and completely explained. As JCSD mentions above, geographical differences alone like the number of square miles in a command or even a beat can skew data results. Then there are staffing issues, i.e. the number of officers working in a geographic area, the amount of free time, this is time to proactive policing versus time out-of-service, time not available or directed time. Which will affect the results.

In my mind there are other factors that also need to be addressed. One, in particular, and certainly not politically correct, is the social economic condition of an area and of the person being contacted. Whether we like it or not, social economic problems are NOT the result of policing but certainly a factor which contributes to police contacts. There are far too many questions that MUST be adddressed before we accept the conclusions of any study as gospel.

Oct. 31, 2016

I am assuming there is a ton of information they are not disclosing and totally agree with JCSD and JustWondering. It is hard to give an opinion with a little piece of the puzzle. However, I can give testimony about how I witness a cop operating in South Park. I do not think he profiles ethnic groups to stop a car, but the treatment and punishment is totally different when they see who you are.

This cop jumps out of the car asking what did you have to drink first and hoovers around trying for a DUI. When he sees that you are not drunk he would make up something to give you the ticket (punishment) and that goes base on your ethnicity and gender.

When I asked why I was stopped he said that I did not stop at the stop sign. When I said I did not agree with that and explain why he said "well, you stop like in the middle of the street" so did I or did I not stop? When I went to investigate his modus operandi I took pics and film his location. When I finished I crossed the street and a little compact car stopped right by the stop sign because I was crossing. To my surprise the cop followed the car and stop it, I waited for her next block and asked if she was ticketed. She said the cop wanted a DUI but when he found out she was not drunk then brought up the fact she did not stop at the sign. I told the woman that was a lie since I saw her stopping and told her that I could witness at court if needed but my surprise came when she told me that no ticket was given to her, only a warning.

This is a $600 dollar ticket that an imbecile wants to give you just because you had a bad luck going through the wrong street and because you do not have big boobs or you are not a cute woman. I work in City Heights and live in South East and they are always stopping both Hispanic and Black young brothers. Our communities are sick of these people abusing their authority!

In City Heights, last year a friend who is a lawyer had a case where a black fella called to report that he lost his key so he had to break into his house. 15 minutes later the police was at his place with a broken neck! Shame!! so Yep, Vanilla white Mayor ...

Yet, not all cops are dirty, rude or out of line... Kudos to many good SDPD officers who are not taking advantage of people and respect communities. Shamus you are so right, this needs to be clear up and we have to move on. I hope people who has gone through the same as me get their money back.

Nov. 2, 2016

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