Black drivers twice as likely to be stopped by California police, racial profiling report shows

California Attorney Gen. Rob Bonta during a news conference in Huntington Beach, California, on Oct. 11, 2021. - Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An annual report from the California Justice Department showed that Black drivers continue to be pulled over by law enforcement agencies at disproportionate rates, reflecting a bias in policing that can cause lasting harm in communities.

The California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board’s report provides data from 58 California law enforcement agencies, both state and local.

It looked at 3.1 million vehicle and pedestrian stops in 2021 and found that law enforcement agencies stopped and searched Black people 2.2 times as often as white people.

Youth between age 15 to 17 perceived to be Black were six times more likely to be stopped and frisked, compared to youth perceived to be white.

Black youth between the ages of 10 and 17 were detained curbside or in a patrol car, searched, or handcuffed at a higher rate than all other races and age groups.

Officers used force against people perceived as Black at 2.2 times the rate of individuals perceived as white.

For those perceived as Latino, officers used force against them at 1.3 times the rate of individuals perceived as white.

The report is required by a 2015 law known as the Racial Profiling and Identity Act. A growing number of law enforcement agencies is submitting data for the report. In 2020 — when the advisory board released its first report that included information about traffic stops — just eight law enforcement agencies submitted data for the study.

The advisory board wants the data to help shape state and local law enforcement policies.

“California is leading the nation in its effort to collect data on police-citizen interactions and to foster transparency and make progress towards fair, equitable, effective policing,” said Steven Raphael, co-chair of the California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board.

The data comes from information officers must report on upon the conclusion of a traffic stop, such as whether no action was taken after a stop, or if it led to a warning, a citation or an arrest.

The data found that officers reported “no action taken” about 2.2 times more often for people they thought were Black than individuals thought to be white. A “no action taken” report suggests that an individual was not engaging in illegal activity.

Some of the report’s recommendations include raising standards for officers to stop citizens. If a citizen is stopped, the report recommended that agencies ban searches unless officers have probable cause to suspect a crime.

The board also recommended that agencies prohibit law enforcement officers from inquiring about the status of someone’s probation or parole.

Other recommendations included changes to the way officers interact with young people, especially regarding the use of force.

“California remains at the forefront of the nation in examining police stop data,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. The advisory board “has continued to issue thoughtful recommendations for how to strengthen public safety and build trust between law enforcement and our communities.”

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