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Blacks more likely to be searched during stops, data shows

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Black and Hispanic Los Angeles residents are more likely to be searched or subjected to force if stopped by police or sheriff’s deputies, a statistic true statewide, according to a data-rich report released Monday by the California Department of Justice.

The report contains the first full-year analysis of stop data for the state, though it is the fourth annual report on racial and identity profiling by the California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board.

Researchers analyzed nearly 4 million vehicle and pedestrian stops made in 2019 by the state’s 15 largest law enforcement agencies.

Eighty-five percent of the stops were reported as traffic violations, with 12% made because of suspected criminal activity.

Black people had the highest proportion of stops on suspicion, at 21%, while those perceived as Middle Eastern or South Asian were almost always stopped for traffic violations rather than as suspected criminals.

Blacks were 1.45 times more likely to have force used against them and were searched at 2.5 times the rate of white people stopped by police.

Hispanic individuals stopped were 1.18 times more likely than whites to be subject to the use of force and 1.48 times more likely to be searched.

The numbers reported for the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were slightly lower for Blacks and slightly higher for Hispanics. The highest disparities statewide were seen in stops made by the California Highway Patrol and Oakland Police Department, where Black drivers or suspects were 1.86 times and 1.92 more times likely to be subjected to force, respectively.

While officers stopped more than twice as many white people as compared to Black people, there were more Blacks who ended up being searched, detained on the curb or in a patrol car, handcuffed, or removed from vehicles.

Individuals perceived as Black, Hispanic and Native American had higher search rates despite the searches of white individuals more often uncovered something illegal.

“2020 has shown us that the work of the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board is more critical than ever before,” said Sahar Durali, board co-chair and associate director of litigation and policy at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles.

“This year’s RIPA report contains detailed data analysis of police stops and searches across racial and identity groups, as well as comprehensive best practices for law enforcement agencies to root out racial and identity profiling in their practices, policies, and culture and be accountable to their communities.”

Durali’s co-chair said the data would be used by agencies to evaluate practices.

“We know that successful policing outcomes are founded in strong community partnerships, we hope the information in this report will result in positive outcomes in our communities,” said Pleasanton Police Department Chief David Swing, board co-chair and past president of the California Police Chiefs Association.

“I am ever grateful for the peace officers throughout our state who serve their communities with honor, working diligently each and every day to improve the quality of life for those they serve.”

Agencies reporting that they analyze stop data include the Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego police departments and sheriff’s departments in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino counties.

The report concludes that disparities are due to both explicit bias, pointing to recent examples of racist social media postings by law enforcement officers, and officers’ implicit bias.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the statistics will aid reforms.

“The more data we have about policing in our state, the more targeted and precise we can be in our reform and interventions,” Becerra said.

In addition to law enforcement practices, the RIPA board urged policymakers to prioritize housing, education, health care and broader criminal justice reforms to reduce the disparities in policing.

The information collected is based on officers’ perceptions about race or ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, English fluency and LGBT identity. It uses multiple methods to determine if bias exists.

The data includes information on on-campus stops of kindergarten through 12th grade public school students.