San Diego Police Plan to Collect Racial Data on Traffic Stops

February 5, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU News Wire: February 5, 1999 –San Diego Police Plan to Collect Racial Data on Traffic Stops


SAN DIEGO, CA — In an effort to restore public trust in law enforcement, the San Diego Police Department announced today that it will begin to collect data on race and routine traffic stops to determine whether minority motorists are stopped at a higher rate than white drivers, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.

The move — called “precedent setting” by the local American Civil Liberties Union and praised by organizations representing people of color — is believed to be the first of its kind by a major police agency in the nation.

According to the Tribune, for years, minorities have contended that police pull over people of color for no apparent reason other than the color of their skin. The phenomenon, reported nationwide, has been dubbed Driving While Black (or Brown), or “DWB.”

San Diego Police Chief Jerry Sanders said he believes that the perception of racial profiling in traffic stops — whether true or not — is eroding public trust and needs to be addressed if community policing, which he strongly advocates, is to be successful.

Sander’s decision stunned the ACLU, which told the Tribune that police departments have no valid reason not to perform such studies yet have never done so voluntarily.

“We were blown away,” said Jordan C. Budd, managing attorney of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “Sanders is definitely breaking the mold.”

Currently in San Diego, race and sex information is included in police reports when citations are handed out, when arrests are made and when interrogations take place, the Tribune reported. However, such information is not recorded when the police routinely stop motorists and then release them, the paper said.

People of color interviewed by the Tribune said they believe the study will validate their concerns and that this type of discrimination happens to people of color from all segments of society.

Last year, the Tribune said, a bill requiring such information-gathering passed both houses of the California Legislature but was vetoed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson. The bill has since been reintroduced.

In response to the veto, ACLU affiliates in California established a toll-free number motorists can call if they believe they’ve been the victim of racially discriminatory police traffic stops. Callers to 1-877-D.B.-STOP, (1-877-392-7867), a 24-hour hotline in both English and Spanish, can report their personal stories of “driving while black or brown” in California.

The national ACLU has posted a similar reporting form on its website at /forms/trafficstops.html.

Source: The San Diego Union Tribune, February 5, 1999

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