San Diego Police Finds Racial Disparities in Some Policing Practices

The Center for Policing Equity (CPE) partnered with SDPD to examine policing practices and behavior from 2016 to Sept 2020

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Racial disparities have been found in some of the San Diego Police Department's policing practices, according to a report that examined data on traffic stops, non-traffic stops and use of force incidents from 2016 to 2020.

The report, conducted by the Center for Policing Equity in conjunction with SDPD, identified racial disparities in police interactions with community members to determine the extent to which disparities were caused by inequitable practices or other factors outside of SDPD’s control.

The report also provided SDPD leadership with recommendations on how to use the data to review police policies and practices.

Mayor Todd Gloria, Police Chief David Nisleit and CPE’s Director of Law Enforcement Initiatives Michael Burbank, held a press conference Thursday to discuss the data and how the department plans to address the findings.

“We’ve known for some time about the racial disparities that exists in policing,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said. “No matter the reasons behind them, these disparities can stir up pain for members of our San Diego community. We, as a city will own this, and we’ll work to be better.”

Key Findings:

  • After accounting for crime rates, poverty rates and neighborhood demographics, Black people experienced non-traffic stops 4.2 times as often as white people.
  • Black people comprise 6.1% of the estimated residential population served by SDPD, but accounted for 22.6% of persons who experienced non-traffic stops
  • Once stopped at traffic stops, Black people were searched 2.5 times as often as White people and Latinx people were searched 2.2 times as often as white people.
  • After accounting for crime, poverty and racial demographic, Black people were subjected to force, 4.8 times as often per resident as were White people.
  • Black people comprise 6.1% of the estimated residential population served by SDPD, but accounted for 22.3% of persons who experienced use of force
  • The three most common types of force recorded were: holds, firearm points and takedowns.

Burbank said this report does not necessarily indicate that police have engaged in bias or discrimination toward specific racial groups. He said the top three reasons for traffic stops were moving violations, vehicle registration and equipment violations.

“Racial disparities are important to measure because they shed light on specific sources of frustration and the risk of harmful outcomes in communities,” Burbank said.

NAACP San Diego Branch President Francine Maxwell said this data is not surprising.

“We’ve been screaming and talking for decades and the data doesn’t change. So, we’re looking for some intentional change from our mayor and our city council and our chief of police,” Maxwell said.

SDPD and CPE will host three virtual community forums to present the findings and have an open dialogue with people. The first forum is Tuesday, June 22. Register here.

SDPD said it is committed to creating an inclusive and data-driven approach to equitable policing. The department said it will also continue to explore causes of the racial disparities identified in the analysis while seeking the insight of Black, Brown, and other communities most impacted by disparate policing.

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