SAN DIEGO, CA - The San Diego Police Department has received the analysis of the second year of its vehicle stop study in an effort to determine whether officers engage in "racial profiling" - stopping motorists simply because of their race. The numbers for the second year mirror those from the first year of the study: the data reveal no organizational pattern of racial bias. As in the first year, Black/African Americans and Hispanics appear to be over-represented in vehicle stops and searches compared to San Diego's estimated driving age population.
The study, conducted by consultants from Eastern Kentucky University, Vanderbilt University, and San Diego State University, analyzed forms filled out by San Diego police officers for vehicle stops from January through December 2001. The Department voluntarily began collecting vehicle stop data in January 2000 in response to nationwide concerns that officers decided which vehicles to stop based on the race of drivers. Data collection continued in 2002 and is continuing in 2003.
Unfortunately, there remains no reliable method of determining the actual ethnic composition of the driving population in San Diego. Factors such as proximity to the international border, uncertain and varying commuter traffic into and out of the city, and tourist traffic of unknown ethnic composition serve as barriers to complete analysis of the raw data.
In 2001 vehicle stops, Black/African American drivers represented 10% of stops and 7% of San Diego's estimated driving-age population. Hispanic drivers represented 28% of stops and 22% of San Diego's estimated driving-age population. Both of these proportions were slightly smaller in 2000.
Asian/Pacific Islanders represented 12% of stops and 15% of San Diego's estimated driving-age population. Whites represented 50% of stops and 55% of San Diego's estimated driving-age population. Both of these proportions were about the same in 2000.
In 2001 searches related to vehicle stops, Black/African American drivers represented 16% of searches, a reduction from 18% in 2000. Hispanics represented 50% of searches, a reduction from 52% in 2000. Whites represented 29% of searches, compared to 25% in 2000. Asian/Pacific Islanders represented 6% of searches, the same percentage in 2000.
"I am concerned about the appearance of a disproportionate impact noted in the data," said Chief David Bejarano. "I am sensitive to the perceptions of community members that race is a factor in vehicle stops. We will continue to meet with community members to discuss the implications of the findings. We do not condone and will not tolerate racial profiling."
According to the researchers, the most troubling aspect of the 2001 study was a 28% decrease in the number of vehicle stop forms submitted by officers. The lower number of completed forms submitted in 2001, compared to the number of written warnings and citations, raises "serious questions about the validity of the vehicle stop data," the study noted.
To facilitate the data collection process, the Department recently attached the vehicle stop form to all citations and traffic warnings, making the form easier for officers to fill out and submit. Chief Bejarano remains optimistic that once the 2002 data is tallied and analyzed in 2003, it will show improved compliance.
"Although I'm disappointed with the drop-off in the number of forms submitted in 2001," said Chief Bejarano, "the findings were substantially similar to 2000. No matter how much quantitative data we generate, we will not be able to answer with any certainty why Black/African American and Hispanic drivers are over-represented in vehicle stops. That's why I've focused on continuing to work with community members to build on a foundation of understanding and cooperation."
Even though there does not appear to be an organizational problem of racially profiling motorists, the Chief continues to take a proactive approach to address the issue. In addition to being one of the first law enforcement agencies to volunteer to collect vehicle stop data, the Department has solicited input from its Community Advisory Committee on Racial Profiling and the study consultants. Chief Bejarano also has taken the following actions:
"I am proud of the dedicated men and women of this Department, who provide excellent service to this city and its people," said Chief Bejarano. "I have tremendous confidence in our police officers. I believe that our continued efforts on this important issue will ultimately enhance the good relationships we have with the communities we serve."The report, "Vehicle Stops in San Diego: 2001," is available in .pdf format on the Department's website, www.sandiego.gov/police.
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