After pleas from the public for action on Monday, the City Council did not seize the opportunity to be a leader in addressing racial profiling.
By Norma Chavez-Peterson, Executive Director / ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties
The majority of the San Diego City Council demonstrated an inexcusable failure in leadership Monday, Feb. 27th in their decision to accept the 2-year independent study of police traffic stop data, but disregard its recommendations.
The Council had before them the results of an SDSU study, requested by former Councilmember Marti Emerald in 2015 to address community concerns about racial profiling by San Diego Police Department officers, wherein researchers independently examined more than 200,000 records of police traffic stops over two years.
Among their findings was clear evidence of racial disparity in what happens after a driver is stopped. For example, Black and Latino drivers are nearly twice as likely to be searched, but significantly less likely to have contraband than White drivers; and Black drivers are three times more likely to be subjected to a field interview and have their information kept in police databases for some unknown future purpose.
The Council heard more than two hours of public testimony, during which dozens of San Diegans demanded decisive action to end SDPD’s now indisputable record of racial bias in traffic.
Nevertheless, despite the clear evidence, despite widespread calls for action by affected San Diegans, despite the protracted process and repeated promises, despite the work done on behalf of San Diego taxpayers to determine the truth of the matter, when given the choice between bringing real reform or adopting a motion to accept the report’s findings, but not its recommendations…the Council decided against real reform.
Politicians rarely live up to our ideals, but the City Council’s disregard for the civil and constitutional rights abuses experienced by some San Diegans of color in encounters with police officers is unacceptable.
Councilmember Alvarez, who together with Councilmember Gomez voted against the motion, said he could “not support a motion that essentially doesn’t address the core issues that are presented by this independent report.”
We at the ACLU could not agree more.