California Police Spend More Time Conducting Racially Biased Stops Than Responding To Calls
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California Police Spend More Time Conducting Racially Biased Stops Than Responding To Calls

Police sirens
(Image: iStock / JasonDoiy) High quality stock photo of a police siren light on the street in San Francisco.

According to a new report on racial profiling in California, Black drivers are nearly five times more likely to be stopped by California sheriffs for traffic violations than white drivers.

The Guardian reports records from the county sheriff’s departments in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, and Riverside were obtained and reviewed by the advocacy groups Catalyst California and the ACLU of Southern California through state law and showed Black drivers were disproportionately stopped in those regions in 2019, especially for minor infractions.

Additionally, the data shows that California sheriffs patrols spend significantly more time conducting racially motivated stops than they do responding to calls for help.

The most severe racial disparities in the state occurred in the Golden State’s capital city, Sacramento. According to the data in Sacramento, Black drivers are stopped 4.7 times more than white drivers. Overall, Black residents in the state, including pedestrians, were stopped 4.1 times whites.

The authors of the report estimated the Los Angeles Sheriff’s patrol unit which has a budget of more than $1 billion, spends $918 million on traffic stops and $124 million on service calls. ln addition to exposing racial disparities in traffic stops, the data suggests some departments prioritize stops that don’t support public safety.

“The vast amount of time that law enforcement is out on patrol is counterproductive to community safety,”  Chauncey Smith, co-author of the report and Catalyst California’s senior manager of reimagine justice and safety told the Guardian.

“It amounts to millions of dollars of public resources wasted on these racially biased practices.”

Eva Bitrán, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California said the data again raises questions about the priorities of law enforcement agencies across the state.

“Law enforcement’s narrative is that cops are out keeping people safe, ‘catching dangerous criminals’ and ‘investigating serious crime’. But they’re spending 80% to 90% of their time on officer-initiated stops, not calls for safety. And then a huge chunk of that is for traffic enforcement for minor violations,” Bitrán said.

The data for the study came before the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement and calls for defunding police departments and spending more money on social programs, drug treatment and housing programs.


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