What Did We Really Learn About Biased Policing In San Diego?
Transparency Matters And So Does The Truth
After waiting sixteen years for an analysis of San Diego Police Department traffic stop data to address concerns about biased policing, we are shocked and disappointed to learn that San Diegans were provided a muted version of the analysis, in part because of real and perceived pressure from City officials.
Mayor Faulconer promised the public an honest assessment – derived from an independent study of SDPD data conducted by San Diego State University researchers – and meaningful action to correct identified problems. However, as we learned from the May 30 Voice of San Diego story, SDSU Researchers Watered Down the Police Racial-Profiling Study the final SDSU report was considerably less honest and forthright than a previous draft. We learned also that SDSU was pressured to tone down the report.
For the final report, SDSU researchers raised the statistical threshold used to determine evidence of racial profiling in police traffic stops. As a result, policing once found by SDPD data to be indicative of racial profiling instead came just to the brink of bias and was not noted. An earlier draft of the report found evidence of racial disparities in police traffic stops occurring in three divisions; in the final report, only one division was documented.
Another troubling omission from the final report was an earlier finding that the majority of officers surveyed by SDSU researchers felt they would not benefit from additional training in fair and impartial policing. Because this finding was not disclosed to the public, Chief Zimmerman’s testimony touting the effectiveness of training implemented by the department was received without question.
We were concerned following the February City Council when the City Council chose to accept the 140-page SDSU report, but not its recommendations. Given this new information, it is important that Mayor Faulconer address the unresolved issues raised in the report – and those in any hidden drafts. The Mayor has been neither transparent nor accountable in this matter. Lives are at stake and so is the public trust. Shame on him.