FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SAN FRANCISCO -- The ACLU of Northern California today applauded the Oakland Police Department's data collection program, but expressed deep concern abut the results of the initial data collection efforts that shows that African Americans are 3.3 times as likely to be searched during a traffic stop as whites. The ACLU calls on the Oakland Police Department to ban consent searches and pretext stops that likely contribute to the discriminatory results.
"The Oakland Police Department has taken the first step toward demonstrating a genuine commitment to eliminating racial profiling by collecting the essential data that is necessary to determine whether a problem exists," said Michelle Alexander, Director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California.
"We are deeply concerned, however, by the fact that African Americans are far more likely to be stopped and searched than whites," Alexander said. "Even if probation and parole searches are excluded from the analysis, African Americans are still 2.86 times more likely to be searched than whites. In fact, more than 1 in 10 stops of black motorists result in a search. That is simply unacceptable."
According to the 2000 census, whites comprise 31.3 percent of Oakland's population, yet they account for only 16 percent of vehicle stops, and 6.7 percent of motorists searched. African Americans, by contrast, make up 35.7 percent of Oakland's population, yet account for 48 percent of vehicle stops, and 65.8 percent of motorists searched.
The California Highway Patrol recently issued a six-month moratorium on consent searches -- the practice of getting consent for a search without probable cause of any criminal activity -- following their review of discriminatory search statistics.
Pretext stops -- which allow officers to use minor traffic violations as an excuse to stop, detain and interrogate people for imaginary criminal activity -- encourage officers to rely on hunches and stereotypes rather than actual evidence of criminal activity when deciding whom to stop and search.
Approximately 60 of the more than 350 police departments in California are voluntarily collecting data on racial profiling. Of the 60 that are collecting data, only a small handful are collecting the five essential elements of data:
- The race and ethnicity of the motorist.
- The reason for the stop.
- Whether a search was conducted.
- Whether drugs or evidence of other illegal activity was found.
- Whether a citation was issued or an arrest was made.
The Oakland Police Department has voluntarily agreed to collect the five essential elements, as well as additional data suggested by community groups.
"Unlike other agencies -- such as the San Jose Police Department, which still refuses to collect search data -- the Oakland police have responded favorably to requests from the community to expand the categories of data collected so even deeper analysis and greater accountability will be possible," Alexander said.