ACLU of San Diego and Coalition of Civil Rights Groups Denounce Police Department's Efforts to 'Whitewash' Racial Profiling Data

January 13, 2003 12:00 am

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SAN DIEGO - A study on racial profiling conducted by the San Diego Police Department and released today contains troubling data on racial disparity in vehicle stops, yet the findings are being misrepresented by the department's chief official, the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties and a coalition of civil rights groups said today.

Members of the coalition -- which includes the Urban League, the San Diego chapter of the NAACP and the Latino/a Unity Coalition -- were responsible for persuading the police department to conduct the racial profiling study and have been involved with that study since 1999. Today, coalition representatives denounced Police Chief David Bejarano for whitewashing the results of the 2001 vehicle stop study.

"Chief Bejarano is trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," said Jimma McWilson, Chief Operating Officer of the San Diego Urban League. "Despite his efforts to misrepresent and undermine the data, it is clear that if you are black or brown, the police are more likely to pull you over and much more likely to search your car, even though people of color are found with contraband in their cars no more often than white drivers."

According to the coalition, this racial disparity is clear even with serious under-reporting of stops in areas where people of color live due to officer non-compliance with the directive to complete vehicle stop cards. Some of the coalition's main criticisms of the study and Chief Bejarano's statements about it are:

  • The data clearly indicate racial disparity -- which the Chief has acknowledged in meetings is a problem -- yet, in his statement he calls it an "appearance of disproportionate impact" and uses the data as the basis for the statement that there is "no organizational pattern of bias." The police department has yet to offer a satisfactory race -eutral explanation for the disparity and has instead relied on information tainted by racial profiling -- such as the descriptions of criminal suspects -- to justify this unequal treatment.
  • Search data show even greater racial disparity. African Americans represent seven percent of the driving population, 10.4 percent of stops and 16.2 percent of searches. Latinos represent 22 percent of drivers, 27.7 percent of stops, and 49.6 percent of searches.
  • The problem is even more severe in the category of consent searches. The community groups have asked Chief Bejarano to suspend consent searches until this issue is addressed, as the California Highway Patrol and New Jersey State Police have done. Chief Bejarano has consistently declined to take that step and instead, has presented a two percent decline in the racial disparity in searches in an unjustifiably positive light.
  • Officers of the SDPD failed to complete vehicle stop cards in at least four out of 10 stops. This non-compliance was almost 20 percent worse in communities where large numbers of people of color reside, with the result that vehicle stops involving people of color may be under-reported by as much as 50 percent. The Chief fails to acknowledge the willful disregard for departmental directives by officers and instead attempts to use the non-compliance to undermine the validity of the data.

These concerns have been discussed numerous times with Chief Bejarano and his representatives, but the Chief's response has been to mislead the public and the media into believing that there is no problem based on race, the ACLU said. After more than two years of trying to work with the department, they and other concerned groups have decided that it is time for the public to know that Chief Bejarano and the SDPD are not serious about addressing this problem.

The full report of the Department's academic consultants is online at

The coalition's critique of the department's analysis can be found online at

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