Sacramento, CA – The California Legislature’s first-ever report on racial profiling by law enforcement officers showed that officers have not been targeting people based on race, prompting critics and lawmakers to call for changes to data-gathering methods.
The report was the result of the state’s Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, which “requires nearly all California law enforcement agencies to collect, maintain, and analyze demographic data on all detentions and searches…to improve understanding and create evidence-based policies though this data collection,” according to the report’s authors.
According to the report, the purpose of the law, and the creation of the advisory board, was to “shepherd this data collection” and to “provide public reports with the ultimate objective to eliminate racial and identity profiling and improve and understand diversity in law enforcement through training, education, and outreach.”
But when law enforcement agencies forwarded the mandated information, the numbers didn’t yield the results that many panel members and anti-police groups had expected.
Although California’s population is comprised of nearly 40 million people, just 659 profiling complaints were made in 2017, the Associated Press reported.
Of those, only three-quarters were related to alleged racial profiling, while others contained allegations of discrimination based on gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and mental or physical disabilities.
Just 10 of the 659 complaints were actually substantiated.
Seventeen percent of the law enforcement agencies throughout the state didn’t have a single complaint made against them.
Guerrero, who is also the executive director of the activist group Alliance San Diego, said she believes the data is a lie, and that law enforcement officers may have intentionally misreported it in order to protect their own.
“We know we have a profiling problem in the state,” she said, despite what the data actually says, according to the Associated Press.
Greater Sacramento National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Betty Williams agreed with Guerrero’s theory of a police cover-up.
"It’s a joke. It’s an absolute joke,” Williams said of the report’s findings, according to KOVR. “How can you not have racial profiling in 2017?”
She alleged that the data was skewed because many law enforcement officers view black people as being so worthless that it isn’t even worth their time to document their contacts with them in the first place.
“I know, since I’ve been the president of the NAACP, we're getting racial profiling cases all the time,” she railed to KTXL. “They need to change the way they are doing things…Are we not worth it? Are we as black people not worth documenting those stops? Come on.”
But advisory board co-chair King County Sheriff David Robinson disputed their inflammatory allegations, and said that the report was an accurate portrayal of what is actually going on out in the field.
“[It is] so rare and far between that someone is racist,” Sheriff Robinson argued, according to the Associated Press.
Robinson said that many allegations of racial profiling didn’t fit the criteria for the advisory board’s report because the complainants did not want to follow formal reporting procedures.
More often than not, people wanted to keep the situation informal, such as making superiors aware of their allegations and having them address the issue with the officer in question.
The advisory board only wanted data pertaining to formal complaints, so that is the information law enforcement agencies handed over, Sacramento Police Officer Marcus Basquez told KTXL.
“There was nothing to cover up,” Officer Basquez explained. “It was just not all of our inquiries were given to the Department of Justice because they were handled at the watch level.”
Going forward, the advisory board is requiring departments to change how they collect data, and said that people should be allowed to level racial profiling allegations against police while remaining anonymous.
"When you allow folks to come forward in an anonymous way that you're more likely to get the information that you need," Guerrero argued.
Agencies also need to make the complaint process simpler, and should provide materials for making complaints in a multitude of languages to encourage more people to come forward, the Associated Press reported.