San Diego Police Data Program Urged as Local Model for Other Agencies

June 15, 2000 12:00 am

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SAN DIEGO — According to a story in today’s San Diego Union-Tribune, civil rights groups yesterday urged other local law enforcement agencies to follow the lead of the San Diego Police Department of voluntarily studying racial profiling by collecting race and ethnicity data about traffic stops.

At a community meeting in Skyline yesterday, a mostly African-American audience praised San Diego police for taking the problem of racial profiling more seriously and underscored the importance of documenting all vehicle stops.

San Diego Police Chief David Bejarano said the statistics will help determine whether minority motorists are pulled over more frequently than white drivers. The department plans to issue a report in July.

“The vast majority of police officers do the right thing on a daily basis,” Bejarano said, “but we know racial profiling exists to a certain extent in some agencies. If it’s occurring in San Diego, it needs to be identified. We don’t want that practice in San Diego.”

“Without data collection, racial profiling remains invisible except to its victims,” said Gimma McWilson of the Urban League. “Without it, the victims have no way of proving a pattern of racial discrimination.”

The Union-Tribune reported that Chula Vista police officials who attended the forum at O’Farrell Community School said they were considering data-collection measures to study racial profiling.

Traffic stops based on a driver’s race or ethnicity have come to be known as “driving while black or brown,” and have caused a national outcry in recent years.

“DWB is not limited to rogue police in a few states,” said Linda Hills, executive director of the ACLU in San Diego. “It’s a nationwide problem that affects all people of color. It’s important that they be able to travel freely without fear.”

The San Diego Police Department is among more than 50 law enforcement agencies in the state that are voluntarily collecting race and ethnicity data of the drivers and occupants involved in vehicle stops. (Information on selected California agencies’ data collection programs is available at: Sacramento, Stockton, Palo Alto, San Diego, and San Jose.)

The departments collecting traffic stop data represent only a fraction of the state’s law enforcement agencies, however, and civil rights groups are pushing for state legislation that would mandate data gathering.

Hills of the ACLU said, “No other law enforcement agency in the county is collecting data that we know of. While there is a lot of focus on the problem, we are a long ways from eliminating it. We have a lot of work to do.”

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