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New Data Shows Racial Disparity in Police Stops

February 7, 2020

Black drivers are stopped 2.5 times as often as white drivers in California

New Data Shows Racial Disparity in Police Stops

A new report from the California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board (RIPA) reveals what many people of color already knew to be true: Black and Latinx drivers are far more likely to be stopped — and searched — than white drivers.

A 2015 law requires California police to log their perception of the race, gender, and sexual orientation of anyone that they stop. RIPA used information from the eight largest law enforcement agencies (which represent the majority of traffic stops and searches) to produce the report. 1.8 million police stops were analyzed in the report.

According to a criminal lawyer Orange County, CA, the results are not necessarily surprising to anyone who practices in the field of criminal law in California. The report found that:

  • Black drivers in California were stopped by the police 2.5 times more often than white drivers;
  • Black drivers were searched 3 times more often than white drivers;
  • Searches of white drivers were more likely to yield contraband or evidence of illegal activity as compared to drivers of other races;
  • Latinx drivers accounted for 40% of all stops by the police;
  • The most commonly reported reason for a stop was a traffic violation;
  • A higher percentage of Black drivers were stopped based on “reasonable suspicion” than any other racial identity group.

The report’s authors considered a number of factors when reaching these conclusions. For example, the report noted that while Black people make up just 6% of all California residents, they accounted for 15% of all police stops. 95.3% of all stops made were initiated by an officer, rather than in response to a call for service, radio call, or dispatch.

The majority of these stops (just under 60%) were conducted by the California Highway Patrol (CHP), while the Los Angeles police and sheriffs’ departments accounted for another 25% of the stops. The biggest racial disparity was noted in San Francisco, where police were 5 times more likely to stop a Black person than a white person.

This type of data is critical to understanding how bias may affect police work in California. It also is necessary to gather this information as a way to end racial profiling. One of the recommendations made by RIPA was to improve supervision and training of police officers.

For a stop to be legal, an officer must have a “reasonable suspicion” that the individual in question is engaging in criminal activity. Reasonable suspicion requires more than a hunch or a feeling that an individual is committing or have committed a crime. Instead, a law enforcement officer must have a belief, based on specific facts and/or circumstances, that a crime is either occurred or has occurred. This belief cannot be based on bias, such as a belief that a person is more likely to be committing a crime based on their race. As a criminal lawyer Orange County, CA can explain, this is a lower standard than “probable cause,” which is required for law enforcement to obtain a search warrant or make an arrest.

If you have been arrested after a traffic stop, there may be a question as to whether the officer who stopped you had reasonable suspicion to make that stop. In some situations, bias may have played a role in why you were stopped. A skilled criminal lawyer Orange County, CA can thoroughly investigate the facts of your case to determine if there is cause to challenge the stop.

The Chambers Law Firm represents individuals throughout Southern California who have been charged with a criminal offense. We stand by your side throughout the process, from the initial arrest until final resolution. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation.

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