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Examination of 4 Million CA Police Stops From 2019: Black Civilians Searched at 2.5 Times the Rate of White People

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

The latest annual report on racial and identity profiling based on stop and search data submitted to the California Department of Justice digs into continued disparities in law enforcement interactions with civilians, and offers recommendations for reducing bias in policing.

The yearly reports are a relatively new state requirement brought about by AB 953, the “Racial and Identity Profiling Act” (RIPA). Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) introduced RIPA in 2015, with the intention that the bill would “inform best practices, create and evaluate trainings and policies, and build trust and improve police-community relations.”

For its fourth annual report, the RIPA Advisory Board looked at nearly 4 million stops that the state’s 15 largest police agencies conducted between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019.

The California Highway Patrol accounted for more than half (54.4 percent) of the 3,992,074 stops analyzed.

The state’s 452 law enforcement agencies are broken into “waves” based on their number of sworn officers, and this year’s report only includes stop data from Waves 1 and 2 — agencies with 667 sworn officers or more.

The 14 other agencies in the first two “waves” were: the Fresno PD, Long Beach PD, Los Angeles Police Department, LA County Sheriff’s Department, Oakland PD, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, Sacramento PD, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego PD, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, San Francisco PD, and the San Jose PD.

Approximately 85 percent of the stops were initiated in response to traffic violations, according to the agencies’ data. “Reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity accounted for another 12.1 percent of the reported reasons for stops.

Officers perceived 38.9 percent of those stopped to be Latino, 33.1 percent to be white, 15.9 percent to be Black, 5.7 percent to be Asian, 4.7 to be Middle Eastern/South Asian.

The percentage of Black people stopped actually rose in 2019 (the year examined in the 2021 report), as compared to the preceding six months — July 1, 2018, through December 31, 2018 — as analyzed in the advisory board’s 2020 report.

(The first wave of law enforcement agencies — those with more than 1,000 sworn — did not have to collect and subsequently report stop data through RIPA until July 1, 2018, so this year’s report contains the first full year of reported data.)

During the second half of 2018, 15.1 percent of the people whom law enforcement stopped were Black. That proportion grew to 15.9 percent in 2019, according to the RIPA analyses. Yet, Black people make up just 7 percent of the state’s population.

Approximately 11.3 percent of stops resulted in searches of person and/or property, 10.2 percent resulted in curbside or patrol car detentions, 8.4 percent resulted in handcuffing, and in 3.9 percent of incidents, officers ordered individuals to exit their vehicles. (Note: only 58.1 percent of people handcuffed were ultimately arrested.)

Despite the fact that officers stopped more than double the number of white people (1,322,201) as Black people (635,092), police searched, detained, handcuffed, or removed from vehicles a higher number of Black people than white people. Officers searched, for example, 22,096 more Black individuals than white individuals.

Black people were searched at 2.5 times the rate of their white counterparts. Officers searched approximately 8% of white people they stopped, but 20.5 percent of Black people — the highest rate of any racial or ethnic group.

Black individuals also had the highest rate of being detained on the curb or in a patrol car (17.8 percent), handcuffed (14.1 percent), and being ordered to exit their vehicles (7.7 percent).

In addition, officers were more likely to search, detain, and handcuff people perceived to be Latino, Native American, and multiracial than people perceived to be white, Asian, or other racial/ethnic groups.

Police searched people they perceived to be transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals at 4.5 times the rate at which they searched those who appeared to be cisgender women and 2.2 times the rate at which they searched people perceived to be cisgender men. People police believed to have a disability were also searched (43.4 percent), detained (39.4 percent), and handcuffed (45.1 percent) at higher rates than those perceived to not have a disability were searched (11 percent), detained (9.8 percent), and handcuffed (7.9 percent).

Officers found individuals in possession of “contraband” or evidence in 22.2 percent of searches of white people and their property, coming out to 1.9 percent higher than the discovery rates of the more frequently occurring searches of Black people in California.

Black and Latino people were 1.45 times and 1.18 times more likely to have police use physical force against them during a stop than against white people.

During the twilight and dark hours, when it is likely more difficult to perceive a person’s racial/ethnic identity — what the report terms the “veil of darkness” — the rate at which police stopped Black and Latino individuals compared to white people dropped.

In addition to stop and search data, the report dives into civilian complaints about their encounters with the 15 largest law enforcement agencies.

Complaints Rarely Sustained

The LAPD had the highest number of reported complaints, by far — 2,205, compared with the Oakland PD’s 1,215 and the LASD’s 1,010. Between the three agencies, the LAPD also had a much larger proportion of profiling complaints, at 19.3 percent.

The LASD reported that 6.7 percent of complaints were related to profiling, while the Oakland PD registered the proportion as 3 percent.

Notably, none of the San Francisco PD’s 842 complaints were categorized as profiling complaints.

None of the LAPD’s 371 profiling complaints were sustained. All were categorized as either “unfounded” — in which the “investigation clearly established that allegation is not true,” or “not sustained,” in which the “investigation failed to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove complaint’s allegation.” The LASD sustained one out of 39 profiling complaints. The LASD, San Diego Police Department, and Orange County Sheriff’s Department were the only agencies with more than 667 sworn officers (agencies in Waves 1 and 2) that sustained any profiling complaints in 2019.

Recording fewer racial profiling complaints, and complaints in general, is not necessarily indicative of fewer problems between law enforcement officers and community members.

Accessibility varies across jurisdictions for individuals seeking to file official complaints against officers and agencies. And the fact that, across the state, few complaints are sustained and result in any kind of discipline or training for officers may discourage people from submitting their grievances.

In Los Angeles County, some community members mistrustful of the LA County Sheriff’s Department have called on the Office of Inspector General to create an independent complaint system as an alternative to complaining to the LASD directly.

The RIPA advisory board agreed that agencies should consider “the creation or expansion of independent civilian complaint review boards and community-centered mediation resources.”

The board also examined complaints as a whole, from the 452 law enforcement agencies required to report stop data under RIPA. Out of those 452 departments, 146 reported 1,153 complaints alleging racial or other identity profiling. And 955 of those reached disposition in 2019. Two percent — just 19 — of those complaints were sustained by the departments. Officers in approximately 13 percent were exonerated, while 75 percent of complaints were ultimately labeled as unfounded. The final 10 percent were otherwise not sustained.

When the board looked at all the complaints, not just profiling complaints, the number of sustained allegations rose to 11 percent (971 complaints). The number of exonerated law enforcement actions also jumped to 29 percent, while unfounded and not sustained outcomes occurred in 49 percent and 11 percent of cases, respectively.

The RIPA board said it hoped that the hard data provided in the report will directly lead to changes within law enforcement agencies as well as better-informed legislative reforms.

The group laid out a number of “best practice” recommendations for law enforcement agencies to adopt in order to reduce disparities caused by racial and identity profiling.

In this latest report and previous reports, the RIPA board called on agencies to increase access to the complaint process, by posting the form online, allowing multiple methods of submission, and offering the form in multiple languages. Community members should also be able to submit complaints anonymously or through a third party.

The board reiterated its previous call for state legislators address an issue in a section of the CA Penal Code that lays out requirements for submitting complaints. These requirements, which criminalize the filing allegations against a police officer if the complainant knows the allegations are false, “can have a chilling effect” on the submission of complaints.

The board also recommended that state legislators keep an eye on whether counties are using money from Realignment (AB 109) and the Mental Health Services Act on law enforcement activities rather than on community-based services. These monies could be used for community-based alternatives to law enforcement responding to mental health crises.

Another issue the report addresses is the issue of bias by proxy caused by 911 calls for service made by people with “false or ill-informed claims about persons they dislike or are biased against,” as in the case of Amy Cooper, the woman videotaped calling 911 to make false claims against Christian Cooper, a black man out birdwatching, after he asked her to put her dog on a leash.

“Law enforcement’s response to such calls is critical because these interactions may involve life and death situations for the caller, the officer, and the subject of the call,” the report stated. “How law enforcement responds can shape community expectations and perceptions of law enforcement more broadly. The Board believes it is imperative to improve law enforcement response models to protect all members of the community, regardless of race or identity, especially when responding to individuals in crisis.” These issues require “education, reform, and training for the public, law enforcement, and dispatchers,” and could be combated by prioritizing community-based alternatives to law enforcement intervention.

Referencing recent reports of police officers using social media and text messages to share racist and other “bigoted” and “offensive content,” the advisory board also recommended that agencies routinely “audit department-issued cell phones and computers issued to in-service officers,” and “proactively conduct a review of their personnel’s social media to identify problematic behavior.”

Law enforcement agencies, the group said, should also stop posting mug shots online “to reduce the influence of existing implicit biases that officers and the public may have.”

The new report noted that starting this year, state law will require agencies to have prospective recruits go through a screening meant to root out explicit and implicit biases against race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, disability, and other identities. The RIPA board also calls for more training and education around biased policing.

“Any meaningful effort to address bias in policing must also recognize policy decisions and agency practices that drive disparities, such as heavily policing certain neighborhoods,” the board members wrote.

31 Comments

  • And nary a mention of the simple fact that African-Americans are also responsible for the majority of violent crime, in spite of being only 8% of LA county residents. This would explain why they have a greater frequency of encounters with law enforcement, something liberal researchers, WitnessLA, and the Times will refuse to admit. These same idiots also believe the county jails are full of people of color because of systemic racism, when in reality it’s filled by bad people doing bad things to others.

    • They are at war with reality. As black criminality stubbornly stays far above other groups they have to keep inventing bizarre excuses to explain it away.

      My favorite recommendation is to stop showing “mug shots” of actual criminals on the internet. Because when people see who is actually committing crimes they will somehow become hopelessly racist or something.

    • It should be fairly easy to discern which neighborhoods generate the most violent 911 calls(shootings, stabbings, burglary NOW, armed robberies, etc.).. & which neighborhoods have relative quietude.

      THAT study should turn on a few lights.

      But it won’t happen.

      In the mean-time the neighborhoods seeing the most 911 calls will see the most ‘pro-active” policing.

      WHY shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

      But THAT won’t be done, either.

    • Absolutely! They keep bringing to light the data that creates clicking and sales, and constantly deny the facts that lead up to the encounters.

      • OTOH

        CF down below brings up a good point:

        “The overwhelming (number) of them commit no crimes. Yet…you treat them as if they are criminals or are up to no good. That is the problem.”

        CF is right–that is indeed a problem, experienced most recently by the Mayor of Compton, whose story can be Googled.

        A problem that we can all see here in this forum being

        covered up.

  • In LA County, 222 black homicide victims in last 12 months. 625 total (all races) over past 12 months, so blacks make up 35% of total homicide victims. About 90% of those will be a black suspect based on past homicide stats. So blacks are only 8% of the population, yet account for about 30% of the homicides in the last 12 months. I haven’t even touched on robbery, assault with deadly weapon, and other violent crimes. Disproportionate stops don’t equal racism. Officers don’t act based on race, but reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Yes, there are a few bad apples, but not enough to skew millions of data points. Keep trying witnessla.com.

    victimla.com

  • Ladies, your GED deceives you. You ladies think you know more than you do. First, this is state-wide data, so stop comparing to the data your cherry-picked figures from the local level. Second, even if we assume what you say is true that blacks committed 222 murders in LA, or something like that based on your claims, there are over 800,000 blacks in the county. The overwhelming of them commit no crimes Yet, unless you see them in suits, you treat them as if they are criminals or up to no good. That is the problem. You can’t arrive at a conclusion about the entire population from your anecdotal experience with a sample. Even if all the crimes where committed by blacks, it does not mean that all blacks are criminals. Elementary logic, ladies. Third, your “reasonable suspicion or probable cause” is what you say it is. You saw “suspicious movements,” “the suspect seemed nervous,” “he reached for his pocket,” or the best one, “I thought he was reaching for a weapon and felt my life was in danger.” Come on, ladies, you make this stuff up. You ladies are afraid to be as open about your racism as the rednecks for trump because you’ll lose your government jobs. Embrace it and it will set you free. You wish you could say in public what you say here. But, alas, the Dorners of this world will put you in your place in that locker room as soon as you open your mouth.

    Do you ladies have any statistics on who uses heroin, opiates, meth? Do you have any statistics on the race of those more likely to commit hate crimes? How about the breakdown by race of people storming Federal buildings claiming to be starting civil wars? How about stats on the race of serial killers? School shooters? How about DUIs? Please do share, ladies.

    The best stat from the post was the following: “Police searched people they perceived to be transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals at 4.5 times the rate at which they searched those who appeared to be cisgender women and 2.2 times the rate at which they searched people perceived to be cisgender men.” I think some of you ladies may not be racist, just curious.

    • Nobody of any color puts me in my place. Dorner had to ambush people, remember? Your style I’d bet. The people I work with recognize whose doing the crime but for now, we just handle our calls. People like you put us in that mode. How does that make you feel CF? I work in a very crime ridden area and it’s getting worse. The bad guys, who look nothing like me, well except many have lots of ink as I do, are running crazy knowing we are hunkered down. Response times are longer and lots of reports we use to take, that luxury is gone, Covid you know.
      Your self serving lies, daily bs and hate directed at Blue are the signs of a pathetic psychotic that never shows any empathy for the victims in the places I travel. You care nothing for the Blacks and Hispanics that mostly get the worst of it. I doubt you’re anywhere near them. Probably living on the West side where you sit safe and cozy with the other soft and chubby little lap dogs.
      What a life huh?

    • CF, or [WLA edit] whatever, your arguments are becoming rather boring. The fact blacks are overrepresented at the local, county, state, and federal level is well known. Don’t try to defend your position with “oh, it’s statewide” arguments, they ring hollow. You seem to have no problem arriving at a conclusion about an entire profession or the LASD based on what looks like your “anecdotal experience with a sample.” You take the words of an attorney or plaintiff suing the LASD as the gospel truth when all along you know they are out to make a quick buck.

      Here’s one for your anecdotal experience. How many black suspects have assaulted, robbed, beaten to death or otherwise targeted Latino vendors in LA? Answer: so many that the LAPD is busy trying to conceal the data lest black youth get accused of racial profiling as they commit their crimes.

  • Let’s take a deep dive into the data but not to deep. We would not want anyone to get the full picture. We can always count on the media to add a more balance perspective. Note the sarcasm.

    When do we move on to the discrimination perpetrated by teachers and nurses. If we did that their unions would howl. Failure of the medical, mental health and education systems surely contribute to the inequities within our society and certainly incarceration.

  • Editor’s note:

    Dear “Paul Berevoescu,”

    Your string of comments (which we did not publish) constitute terrorist threats.

    Celeste Fremon
    Editor
    WitnessLA

  • I’m wondering why anyone would use violent crime stats to explain racial disparities in traffic stops, especially when the majority of stops were made by CHP officers who have no neighborhood beat to patrol. According to the officers’ reports, only 12% of the stops were based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The remaining stops were about traffic violations. A drill down will undoubtedly find further racial disparity in the reason for the stop (petty violations vs. safety-endangering conduct). Therefore, these stops weren’t about catching violent criminals—unless the argument is that all Black people are likely to be violent criminals.

    Following that logic, one would have to agree that that all white persons should be stopped. After all, they make up the majority of mass shooters and sexual offenders.

    Both of the above arguments plainly rest on the belief that racial profiling is okay. Both of the above arguments are inconsistent with the law, which says racial profiling is not okay. Therefore, both arguments advocate for cops (aka law enforcement officers) to violate the law. And if adopted, neither course of action would make us safer.

    To the extent the argument begins and ends with “all Black people brought it on themselves because some Black folks commit some crimes more frequently,” the argument is intended to justify and encourage racist conduct. Yet, the arguer will insist that racism doesn’t exist or at least they will claim that they themselves are not racist.

    [exasperated sigh]

    • Given the stats that 93% of young male blacks who are killed are killed by other young male blacks, and less than 1% are killed unlawfully by police, a question for you: when you have “the talk” with your black son, who do you tell them to look out for?

      • “…and less than 1% are killed unlawfully by police….”

        Not in that 1%:

        https://www.yahoo.com/news/inquest-confirms-homicide-shooting-la-210553400.html

        Remember:

        1. This is the shooting where the two homicide investigators assigned by the LASD to investigate the homicide invoked the fifth rather than testify about their investigation.

        2. The LASD is the largest County Police Department in the whole country.

        So.

        “…When you have ‘the talk’ with your black son, who do you tell them to look out for?”

        Yep.

        • Is there a point you’re trying to make other than to confirm mine? Thanks for playing! When in doubt deflect, right?

          • My point is readily discernible: don’t trust the police.

            Especially when two homicide investigators successfully invoke the fifth on a homicide they’ve been assigned to investigate.

            Scary new development.

          • There’s nothing scary about that development at all if you understand the context within which it occurred. County counsel refused to provide the detectives with counsel, while at the same time demanding they answer questions about their own personnel records under oath. That should alarm anyone with half a brain as it erodes a principle of right to counsel. What they did provide, which was actually relevant to the inquest, was their entire case file, which they gave under seal to the retired appellate judge for her review.

            And what was the conclusion of this judge? The same conclusion as the original one from the coroner! Amazing. So did we learn anything here? MRT punked the coroner into initiating an inquest that he then handed over to county counsel, which has no business handling inquests, to get a retired judge to rubber stamp the same decision that had already been published months prior. And your conclusion from all this is that you shouldn’t trust law enforcement? Ah, 10-4 there partner.

          • You are peddling deliberate disinformation, with the intent to deliberately mislead.

            Two homicide investigators pleading the fifth on a homicide they were assigned to investigate.

            So.

            What does pleading the fifth mean?

            An answer from a Criminal Defense law firm:

            https://www.birdjacobsen.com/blog/2016/09/what-does-it-mean-to-plead-the-fifth/

            Remember: we are now in the Court of Public Opinion.

            That means that the public has a Right to Know.

            So tell us–what counsel was it that the two Homicide investigators needed when they were there to testify about a homicide they were assigned to investigate?

            The Public has a right to know.

          • In your words: “You are peddling deliberate disinformation, with the intent to deliberately mislead.” Now why don’t you be a brave soul and point out what information I provided that was either false or misleading? You want to run around with a manufactured OMG moment, that’s your choice. The court of public opinion has already concluded the whole inquest was a political stunt. Please tell me what precious new information was learned? That people tend to take the fifth when denied counsel? Next thing you’ll be telling me water is wet…

        • You misstate what the fifth is about

          Here, in this Inquest, the Fifth was invoked to conceal criminal activity.

          If there was no criminal activity there would be no reason to invoke the Fifth.

          Paragraph #4 in the link from the Criminal Defense firm cited above.

          A cover-up being perpetuated by the LASD

    • “Real” depends how you define a “mass shooting”. The kamikaze type where the shooter keeps killing until stopped may very well be a majority white guy thing. However getting revenge for a perceived “diss” by driving up to a party and blasting away is more of an ethnically diverse thing. Any way you cut it, blacks are still murdering at a rate several times higher than every other group.

      [sound of sucking on teeth]

      • …may very well be a majority white male thing.
        You know damn well, it’s true and yes, blacks kill other blacks at a disturbing high rate.

    • CHP pull over often from the rear, they can see people driving the vehicles they stop? The majority of the stops are on the freeways I would gather and I believe with PC. Anything to continue the myth of racial profiling which is, I admit, part of my profiling, when I was actually proactive. I know my gangsters and they aren’t White guys. When keeping them in line I’m stopping Hispanics and Blacks, when working certain other issues, might be White boy and girl day. Depends on what I’m doing. That’s me Mr. Transparency.

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