By Doug Porter
Long-awaited data from San Diego State researchers on the question of racial bias in city policing has surfaced via a draft report in the form of a powerpoint presentation and it’s next to worthless.
The San Diego City Council Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee is getting a glimpse of the draft and hearing from the researchers Wednesday afternoon. You can bet their conclusions will include the phrases “more research” and “inconclusive,” words we all should be used to by now when it comes to holding law enforcement authorities to a standard.
The report will point out some already-known disparities, namely that Black and Latino drivers are nearly 2 times as likely to be searched, while Black drivers are 44% less likely to be found with contraband; and Latinos are 46% less likely to have contraband.
What the report doesn’t do is evaluate the basis of how decisions are made on why persons being stopped are held to be suspicious. Instead, much is made about a technique used by researchers called the “Veil of Darkness” to offer a more nuanced review of the data.
Data included in two of slides prepared for the presentation indicates roughly one in five records of stops by the SDPD during the study period is either incomplete or missing entirely. And this is when they knew there was somebody looking for the information.
Once Upon a Time
The San Diego Police Department began collecting data on race and ethnicity during traffic stops in 2000. At that time it was considered a progressive advance in policing. Seven of the ten of the biggest police departments in the US implemented the practice.
In San Diego, the practice fell by the wayside, despite the policy remaining in place. The brass at the police department said residents did not believe racial profiling was a problem.
This assertion was based on the number of formal complaints being filed. Given the reality that the city’s mechanism for citizen complaints about police conduct was (is) toothless, underfunded and understaffed, it’s not hard to see why grievances weren’t being filed.
Truth Be Told
City residents complained about racial profiling by the San Diego Police for years at various public forums. Those complaints fell on deaf ears.
From a Megan Burkes story published at both KPBS and Voice of San Diego:
“It hasn’t come up in years and years and years in interactions with the community,” said Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who’s in charge of the department’s neighborhood policing efforts.
But those who monitor San Diego police don’t share that perspective. The head of the local Black Police Officers Association, the president of the local NAACP and a city councilman all said racial profiling happens in San Diego and they hear about it.
“Everyone knows it exists,” said Lei-Chala Wilson, the local NAACP president.
In October 2013, following a $450,000 settlement on a lawsuit and inquiries by the media, then-Chief of Police William Lansdowne issued a memo ordering a resumption of data collection on race at traffic stops, saying profiling had again become an issue in San Diego.
‘Inconclusive’ Seems to Be a Theme
A report from the SDPD records from 2014 pointed to racial disparities but was considered inconclusive. The trends included in the study were similar across most police divisions.
Black people accounted for 12.3% of police vehicle stops despite being only 5.8% of San Diegans old enough to drive.
Hispanic people experienced 30.3% of traffic stops while making up 26.6% of the driving population.
Officers were less likely to stop white and Asian residents.
Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman’s report doesn’t fall on one side or the other of racial profiling claims.
Echoing independent analyses of similar data from 2000 and 2001, Zimmerman writes in her report the department can’t draw conclusions based on the figures because it doesn’t know exactly who is on the road. It needs a demographic benchmark from which to spot irregularities.
The department settled on using estimates from the San Diego Association of Governments for individuals old enough to drive as its benchmark but offered little analysis because of the data’s limitations.
“Although cities often use population figures as an estimated comparison, this is particularly challenging in San Diego, with its proximity to the border, designation as a world tourist destination, major military presence, and other factors not considered in population data,” the report says.
The Latest Nothingburger of a Report
In February 2015, San Diego Councilwoman Marti Emerald ordered a review of police data on racial profiling.
San Diego State University researchers were hired to do a fuller examination of the data, which was to be ready in November 2015 and then June 2016.
In June, the release was pushed back to October. A three-month delay by city officials in signing the contract was blamed.
An analysis of the latest draft report being presented to the City Council indicates the two key questions that the SDSU researchers were tasked to address remain unanswered, namely:
- To what extent is there a department-level pattern of racial disparity in the initiation of traffic stops?
- To what extent are racial disparities in the initiation of traffic stops evident at the patrol division-level?
The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties said in a written statement it had expected more information would be released ahead of the meeting, considering the report has been delayed multiple times.
“It is disappointing that despite having months of notice about the [council committee] hearing, the Mayor’s office is unable to produce a complete analysis and instead offers the public a collection of slides that does not contextualize the data in a way that allows for the average person to interpret its meaning or provide constructive feedback,” said Cheryl Alethia Phelps, a communications consultant for the ACLU, in an email Tuesday.
“This is not transparency.”
This report and the obfuscation surrounding it is just another example of how smoke and mirrors are used in San Diego to protect the status quo. The unwillingness or inability of the SDPD to actually collect 20% of the data from traffic stops tells us all we need to know.
The Stink in District Nine
Voice of San Diego fact checked the first hit-piece mailer on City Council candidate Georgette Gomez produced by a developer-sponsored PAC and found it to be misleading.
Now there are two more nasty mailers, one sponsored by the above referenced Public Safety Advocates and another by the San Diego Police Officer Association.
They’re both bullshit, and it’s probable the SDPOA flyer was ultimately financed by the same donors.
Given that there are two similar sounding Democrats in the race for the District 9 seat, it might be tempting to wonder why these developer types are coughing up the dough.
The answer to that question may have been unwittingly revealed by Colleen O’Connor in an op-ed published by the Times of San Diego.
Her premise is that Mayor Kevin Faulconer may be the biggest loser in this election cycle, even though he’s not on the November ballot. She posits hizzoner had three plans to increase his power, and all three aren’t doing so well.
Plan A: defeat Barbara Bry in District 1. He lost. Bry won a near knockout victory in the primary. Her opponent conceded in July ,and she is now cruising to be the new Democratic Councilwoman-elect. That makes it a 5-4 Democratic City Council.
Plan B: control the council president. That, too, failed with Bry’s win. Too early to determine who the next council leader will be, but odds are against the choice being a Faulconer puppet.
Plan C: elect a Republican city attorney. He needs this to get legal opinions that support his political ends.
She’s right about all three.
The District One council contest was supposed to be the GOP/Faulconer’s big money power play. And, given the likely Democratic turnout, Mara Elliott is likely to be the next City Attorney.
But, maybe, just maybe, there’s a Plan D. As in Democrat.
From Faulconer’s (and his developer buddies) point of view, Georgette Gomez and her progressive base are less likely to be inclined to compromise than Ricardo Flores, who failed to get his party’s endorsement.
Nasty Woman Limping in…
From Cheers and Jeers at Daily Kos:
Happy birthday to Hillary Clinton, the pneumonia-stricken, asthmatic, chronically-fibromyalgic, allergy-plagued, memory-impaired, energy-depleted, unsteady, last-rites-given grandma who’s currently kicking the entire Republican machine in the teeth with one shriveled, arthritic hand tied behind her degenerating vertebrae on her way to becoming the next President of the United States for two spectacular terms.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla reports that 501,206 new voters were added to the rolls in the final two days to register for the 2016 general election. The registration surge was fueled by first-time voters and Millennial voters, ages 17 – 35, accounting for 58% of all online voter registration.
“Another California voter registration record has been broken,” Padilla said in a released statement. “On the October 24 voter registration deadline day, more Californians completed voter registrations online than on any other single day in the history of our voter registration website.”
On This Day: 1825 – After eight years and at least 1,000 worker deaths—mostly Irish immigrants—the 350-mile Erie Canal opened, linking the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Father John Raho wrote to his bishop that “so many die that there is hardly any time to give Extreme Unction (last rites) to everybody. We run night and day to assist the sick.” 1881 – The “Gunfight at the OK Corral” took place in Tombstone, AZ. The fight was between Wyatt Earp, his two brothers and Doc Holiday and the Ike Clanton Gang. 1981 – Queen and David Bowie released the single “Under Pressure” in the U.K.
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