No Surprise! California Police Stop Black Drivers More Than White Drivers, New Report Shows

Black motorists in California are more likely to be stopped and searched by law enforcement than white ones, a new report by the state found.

A 2015 law known as the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA), requires California law enforcement agencies to collect and report data on complaints that allege racial or identity profiling. The study, which was released by the state’s Racial Identity Profiling Advisory Board at the beginning of this month, reviewed and collected the data and found there were 1.8 million vehicle and pedestrian stops from July 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018. The report also found that in addition to the stops, officers searched Black drivers at a rate of 2.9 times more than white drivers, according to the study.

Quick facts about the study

  • The report focuses on the largest law enforcement agencies in the state, such as the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the Los Angeles police and sheriff’s departments, the sheriff departments in San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego and the police departments in San Francisco and San Diego.

  • Hispanics, who make up 41.4 percent of the population were stopped the most by law enforcement at nearly 40 percent of the time, while white drivers, who make up nearly 35 percent of the population, were stopped 33.2 percent of the time by police, according to the report. But Black drivers were stopped 15 percent of the time, but make up just 6.3 percent of the population.

  • Most of the stops conducted by law enforcement for all racial/ethnic groups were because of traffic violations, followed by reasonable suspicion. According to the study, “a higher percentage of Black individuals were stopped for reasonable suspicion than any other racial identity group.”

  • When law enforcement did search white drivers, the study found that contraband or evidence was found on them at higher rates than with individuals from all other racial/ethnic groups.

  • During these stops in 2018, 60.3 percent of all individuals stopped were issued a citation and/or arrested, the study found. Black and Native American individuals were the only groups that had the highest arrest rates and the lowest citation rates.

  • According to the study, 60 percent of stops were made by the CHP, followed by the Los Angeles sheriff and police departments which accounted for approximately 25 percent.

  • The San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department had the most complaints of profiling reported against it (33 percent), followed by the San Diego Police Department (20 percent), according to the report.

  • The report found that the San Francisco Police Department had the largest increase in reported complaints of profiling, which shot up 28.7% from 2017 to 2018.

What’s being done

The RIPA Board recommends in order to move toward ending racial profiling, law enforcement should “engage with their communities as they develop and improve policies and practices that are strong and effective, while also enhancing transparency, building trust, and promoting the safety and well-being of all parties,” the study reads. In order to do that, the board stated that law enforcement agencies should improve their data collection, fix how it trains officers and review its policies.

For people of color, interactions with law enforcement can lead to deadly force. As an effort to stop this, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 392 in November. The bill, which is also known as the California Act to Save Lives, updates the existing deadly force standards to provide that deadly force may only be used when necessary. The new law also requires officers to use other de-escalation techniques to address threats before shooting an individual.

The bill was introduced by State Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) following the killing of Stephon Clark, who was shot and killed by two Sacramento Police Department officers in March 2018. Clark, a Black man, was suspected of breaking car windows and was shot by the officers after they mistook his cellphone for a gun, the Los Angeles Times previously reported.

“This is a time for healing, progress and looking forward. The bill goes to the heart of some of our most sacred principles, in which force should be exercised judiciously, with respect for human life and dignity. The bottom line is that deadly force should only be used when absolutely necessary,” said Newsom in a previous statement.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.