Black drivers are disproportionately stopped and searched by police in California, according to a new report released by the California Department of Justice.
Though Black people only make up about 6% of the state population, according to the U.S. census, drivers perceived to be Black were involved in about 15% of traffic stops by police across California in the second half of 2018, per the report released Thursday from the California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board. The board, made up of leaders from law enforcement leaders, community groups and more, is responsible for advising the Attorney General’s Office about racial profiling and traffic stops, including collecting and analyzing stop data each year.
Meanwhile, white people, who represent nearly 35% of the state population, were involved in 33% of traffic stops.
The report, which was required under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, analyzed about 1.8 million traffic stops from July through December 2018 from the state’s eight largest law enforcement agencies ― including California Highway Patrol and officers in jurisdictions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino.
Asians as a whole were stopped at a lower rate (5.5% of stops) than their percentage of the state population (12%), but those perceived as Middle Eastern or South Asian were stopped at disproportionately high rates: They were involved in 4.4% of stops, but only account for 1.8% of California’s population.
Police said they made most of the stops for traffic violations. However, they stopped Black people at the highest rate for “reasonable suspicion” — 1.8 times the rate they stopped whites for the same thing.
Asked for comment about the disproportionate rate of stops and searches of Black drivers in the state, Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said: “We’ll let the report, data and press release speak for themselves.”
Previous studies conducted nationwide have repeatedly found racial bias in police traffic stops. Black drivers were about 20% more likely than whites to be pulled over, according to a study published last year looking at nearly 100 million traffic stops across the U.S. from 2011 to 2017.
Black people were also searched at disproportionately high rates in California. About 10% of people stopped were then searched. Officers searched Black people 18.7% of the time, 2.9 times the rate at which they searched whites (6.5%).
However, officers found contraband or evidence on white drivers at a higher rate than members of any other racial group.
And among the 60% of people stopped who were then issued a citation or arrested, Black people and Native Americans had the highest arrest rates and the lowest rates of citation.
The report released by the California DOJ made recommendations to police departments to reduce racial profiling, including by increasing bias training and urging law enforcement to work with local communities to develop policies that “root out … harmful practices of racial profiling.” It also urged lawmakers to dedicate more funds to law enforcement to collect and analyze data on race and other demographic information in traffic stops.
The California DOJ also announced the launch of a new online dashboard allowing the public to better access and analyze the state’s collected data on traffic stops and searches.
“For the first time ever, Californians have comprehensive racial and identity data on each stop and search conducted by police officers at the largest law enforcement agencies in the state,” said Sahar Durali, co-chair of the advisory board that produced this report and associate director at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles, in the DOJ news release. “This is a critical first step in the fight to end racial profiling.”