ACLU Statement by

Norma Chavez-Peterson

Executive Director ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties

To the City Council Regarding SDSU Study of SDPD Traffic Stop Data:

(presented to the City Council by Christie Hill)

Good afternoon, Council President Cole and City Councilmembers.  My name is Norma Chavez-Peterson.  I am the Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.  Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you.

I am especially grateful that last year’s PSLN Committee voted to refer this matter to the full Council with a thoughtful motion that sought to position us for positive action.

I hope today continues that forward momentum. I ask that the Council take immediate steps to ensure every San Diegan receives fair and just policing, as is their constitutional right.

This is the end of the beginning.

The SDSU study presents troubling findings of injustice, and while there can be critiques of the methodology of the study, we can all agree that there are disparities.

We have a good foundation to make change: the study includes a number of strong recommendations; there are best practices emerging from conversations taking place across the nation: and here in California, we have a promising new state law, the Racial and Identity Profiling Act, available to help us to strengthen the quality of law enforcement for all San Diegans.

The ACLU comes to today’s meeting not to attack San Diego’s police officers or minimize the important work they do every day.  We are here to advocate for fair and constitutional policing. We are here to encourage the Mayor, Chief Zimmerman, and each of you to exercise meaningful leadership in carrying out the Study’s recommendations.

This is a pivotal moment. 

We believe SDPD’s culture, practices and policies must be continually monitored to identify and dismantle those that contribute to biased policing and racial profiling.  We believe the City must take concrete actions without delay, and offer the following recommendations:

  1. Begin collecting the data required under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 immediately after the regulations are finalized, including the data points recommended by the SDSU study authors. 

    As noted in the Department’s presentation, there is a database being created that law enforcement agencies can choose to participate in. The creation of this database does not mean that SDPD should take a ‘wait and see’ approach.The California Justice Information Services (CJIS) is developing software that law enforcement agencies can use to collect information required by the new state law, but CJIS has stated publically that law enforcement agencies should not wait until the last minute to begin to evaluate what improvements their internal systems may need.

    It would be great to learn today from the Chief:
    1. How SDPD is preparing to comply with the new law?
    2. What work has been to date?
    3. What conversations have been had with CJIS about the database, and any information on expected completion date of the state database?
    4. Is SDPD considering using the CJIS database?
  1. Our second recommendation is to require an annual independent Racial Impact Report be presented to the City Council analyzing the data collected under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act. The report should include information about any racial bias complaints and the outcomes of such complaints, as well as any action taken by SDPD to mitigate racial biases.
  2. One of the more troubling findings in the report is the disparity around searches. Blacks and Latinos were nearly twice as likely to be searched and less likely to have contraband.
    Our third recommendation would require an officer to obtain written consent that includes information about an individual’s rights to refuse or revoke consent at any time, for consensual searches.
    The Task Force on 21st Century Policing offers a similar recommendation regarding consensual searches.Related to consensual searches, we would also like to see SDPD required to obtain a warrant to collect DNA from a child or adult. And for there to be clear limitations on how long this data may be retained. There is no reason to justify taking DNA from children without getting a warrant from a judge.
  1. Another troubling disparity from the report was around field interviews, Blacks were nearly three times more likely to have field interviews than whites, yet were less likely to have contraband. Given the stark disparities it is important that SDPD change their approach to field interviews.
    Our fourth recommendation is that officers advise people that a Field Interview encounter is consensual and they are free to leave if they choose. A person’s written consent should be obtained for the field interview.
  1. The SDSU study recommends that SDPD develop a policy regarding how traffic stops are done. Our fifth recommendation is to support SDSU’s recommendation – and also that a prohibition of pretext stops be a key component of this policy.
    We would like to see this Council direct the Chief to present SDPD’s policy proposal to community stakeholders, including the Community Review Board on Police Practices, Citizens' Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations, and Gang Commission for feedback; and to return to the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhood Committee with a policy for review by June 2017.
  1. Our sixth recommendation is about accountability. Because everyone understands that policy that isn’t implemented is meaningless, and that accountability is essential for effective implementation.
    We support the study’s recommendation that SDPD integrate stop data into the Early Intervention System.
  1. Our seventh recommendation is to support the study’s call for the data to be made public as part of the City’s Open Data Portal.
  1. Our eighth and final recommendation is that SDPD regularly update the PSLN Committee on its progress toward implementing the study’s recommendations, and any additional steps they have taken to address identified disparities.

 Again, the City of San Diego has reached the end of the beginning.

We’ve reached the end of uncertainty, of questioning whether it’s true that Black and Brown people are treated differently by our police department.  We have a shared understanding that biased policing is occurring – and have the tools to address it.

The time is now for the City of San Diego to take action to ensure justice for all its residents.

Thank you.