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Home / Impact / Report: Black residents searched by police 2.4 times more often than Whites in California

Report: Black residents searched by police 2.4 times more often than Whites in California

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The California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board announced the release of its fifth annual report on racial and identity profiling in policing in California.

The report contains an analysis of the millions of vehicle and pedestrian stops conducted in 2020 by 18 law enforcement agencies in California under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA), the nation’s largest and most comprehensive stop data collection effort to date under which all state and local law enforcement agencies will be required to report stop data to the California Department of Justice by April 1, 2023.

In addition to providing an in-depth look into policing in 2020, the Board’s report contains a wide array of best practice recommendations related to policing, including on consent and supervision searches, pretext stops, community-based accountability, search procedures, civilian complaints, and interactions with people perceived to have a disability or perceived to be transgender. Overall, the findings from the latest RIPA report are consistent with the disparities observed in prior years’ data with respect to perceived race, gender, and disability status.

“The data collection effort has been building towards and will soon achieve universal reporting of stops, uses of force, and civilian complaints from all law enforcement agencies in the state, setting a new national standard for transparency,” said Steven Raphael, Co-Chair of the Board and Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. “The analysis in this year’s report breaks new ground on the experiences with law enforcement of those with mental and physical disabilities, the experiences of members of the LGBTQ+ community, in addition to the detailed analysis of stop outcomes by race, ethnicity, and gender contained in past reports.”

“The data in this report will be used by our profession to evaluate our practices as we continue to strive for police services that are aligned with our communities’ expectations of service,” said Chief David Swing, Co-Chair of the Board and Past-President of the California Police Chiefs Association. “Our goal is that information in this report will result in collaborative conversations that strengthen partnerships and relationships with the communities we serve. Thank you to my colleagues on the Board and the staff of the Department of Justice for your contributions and commitment to enhancing policing in California.”

The information collected under RIPA includes data on peace officers’ perceptions of the demographics of stopped individuals. The purpose of collecting information on officer perceptions is to attempt to systematically document and analyze stops and searches to determine whether disparities can be found across demographic groups.

The perceived demographic information collected includes a wide range of characteristics such as race or ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, English fluency, and LGBT identity. There are a number of methodologies to analyze stop data that can help determine if bias may exist, and the report relies on several well-established methods as reference points.

However, as noted in the report, there are important limitations and caveats for each methodology that should be kept in mind when interpreting the data. Some of the key findings from the 2020 round of data collection and the second full year of RIPA data include: 

  • Number of Stops: In 2020, 18 law enforcement agencies, including the 15 largest agencies in California, collected data on approximately 2.9 million vehicle and pedestrian stops. This represents a 26.5% reduction in comparison to the number of stops reported in 2019, most likely as a result of COVID-19.
  • Search Rates: People who were perceived as Black were searched at 2.4 times the rate of people perceived as White. Overall, officers searched 18,777 more people perceived as Black than those perceived as White. In addition, transgender women were searched at 2.5 times the rate of individuals perceived to be cisgender women.
  • Result of Stop: At the conclusion of a stop, officers must report the outcome, e.g., no action taken, warning or citation given, or arrest. For individuals perceived as Black, officers reported “no action taken” 2.3 times as often as they did for individuals perceived as White, indicating that a higher rate of those stopped who were perceived as Black were not actually engaged in unlawful activity.
  • Use of Force Rates: Officers used force against people perceived as Black at 2.6 times the rate of individuals perceived as White. In addition, officers used force against individuals perceived to have a mental health disability at 5.2 times the rate of individuals perceived not to have a disability.
  • Traffic Violation Stops: A higher proportion of traffic violation stops of people perceived as Hispanic or Black were for non-moving or equipment violations as compared to individuals who were perceived as White. For instance, the proportion of such stops initiated for window obstruction violations was nearly 2.5 times higher for people perceived as Hispanic and 1.9 times higher for people perceived as Black as compared to people perceived as White.
  • Population Comparison: Using data from the 2019 American Community Survey, people who were perceived as Black were overrepresented in the stop data by 10 percentage points and people perceived as White or Asian were underrepresented by three and nine percentage points, respectively, as compared to weighted residential population estimates.

“California is leading the charge in collecting and analyzing police stop data,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “To date, the state has provided the public with an in-depth look into nearly 9 million police stops. This information is critical and these annual reports continue to provide a blueprint for strengthening policing that is grounded in the data and the facts. I’m grateful to the RIPA Board and all the staff at the California Department of Justice for making this latest report possible. As a legislator, I was proud to co-author the bill that led to this effort and, now as Attorney General, I am committed to carrying that work forward.”

The 18 law enforcement agencies that reported 2020 RIPA data, which include three early reporting agencies, were the Bakersfield Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Davis Police Department, Fresno Police Department, Long Beach Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department, Oakland Police Department, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Sacramento Police Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, San Francisco Police Department, and San Jose Police Department.

For more on the RIPA data, members of the public are encouraged to review the online RIPA data dashboards available on OpenJustice. The dashboards provide a unique look at the data and will be updated with the new data to help increase public access to information on the millions of stops and searches conducted across California in 2020. 

A copy of the report announced today is available here. A fact sheet on the report is available here. A pullout of the recommendations and best practices is available here. The report appendices are available here. More information about the Board is available here.

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