Throughout 2021, law enforcement officials in California stopped, searched and used force against people officers perceived to be Black at higher rates than people thought to be white, according to an annual state study released Tuesday.
The sixth report from California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board analyzed data from 58 law enforcement agencies, including the 23 largest in the state, and found “racial and identity disparities persist year after year.”
The agencies conducted more than 3.1 million stops in 2021, the majority of which were conducted by the California Highway Patrol, according to the report.
More than 42% of individuals involved in those stops were perceived to be Hispanic, more than 30% were believed to be white and 15% were perceived to be Black. California’s population is about 40% Hispanic or Latino, roughly 35% white but just 6.5% Black, the report notes, citing 2021 Census estimates meaning Black individuals were stopped 144.2% more frequently than expected given their proportion of the population.
“This year’s data demonstrates the same trends in disparities for all aspects of law enforcement stops, from the reason for stop to actions taken during stop to results of stop,” the report states.
Report finds police were more likely to search, use force on Black and Hispanic people
- Officers searched people who they believed to be Black more than 20% of the time while individuals perceived as white were searched less than 10% of the time , according to the report. Although officers stopped nearly 500,000 more individuals perceived to be white than those perceived to be Black, they searched 6,622 more Black individuals.
- The vast majority of stops were conducted for traffic violations. But Black individuals had the highest proportion of stops due to “reasonable suspicion that the individual was engaged in criminal activity.”
- Officers reported taking no action — meaning, for example, no citation was given or arrest was made — most frequently during stops involving people they perceived to be Black, indicating those who were stopped were not engaged in criminal activity, the report found.
- The study also found Black and Hispanic or Latino individuals were also more likely to have force used against them.
- According to the report, across all racial and ethnic groups, the highest percentage of stops in which officers handcuffed, searched or detained individuals involved children and teenagers. For those between the ages of 15 and 17, Black teens were searched nearly six times the rate of white teens and Hispanic teens were searched nearly four times the rate their white counterparts.
What the report recommends
Researchers focused on data regarding what officers perceived to be the race, ethnicity, gender and disability status of people they stopped, rather than how those people actually identified, because perception can create bias, according to the report.
The data mirrors nationwide trends. More than 20 million Americans are stopped by police each year, and Black drivers are 20% more likely to get pulled over than white drivers, according to a study from the Stanford Open Policing Project.
The report noted that interactions with police and heightened police surveillance can have negative mental health impacts on youth and communities of color. The report’s recommendations included eliminating pretextual stops and subsequent searches and changing policies and practices related to law enforcement interactions with youth.
“The Board believes that public health officials and policymakers should treat racial and identity profiling and adverse policing as significant public health issues,” the report said.
The California Highway Patrol “will be carefully reviewing the findings in the 2023 Annual RIPA report to better understand any identified ‘stop data’ trends, and ensure CHP policies and procedures are in line with best practices,” the agency said in a statement.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg
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