California police more than twice as likely to use force against Black people – report
Annual report from state board found Latinx and Black residents disproportionately affected by ongoing ‘pretextual stops’
California police were more than twice as likely to use force against Black residents than white residents during traffic and pedestrian stops in 2021, according to a new report on racial profiling.
The annual report from a state board also found that law enforcement searched Black people at 2.2 times the rate of white people, and that Black youths ages 15 to 17 were searched at nearly six times the rate of white teenagers. Latino residents were stopped and subjected to force at 1.4 times the rate of white people, and Latino youths were searched at nearly four times the rate of white youths.
The disproportionate searches of Black and Latino people have persisted despite the fact that from 2019 to 2021, officers were least likely to find contraband on members of those groups compared with white people, the report said.
California’s racial and identity profiling advisory board gathered data on stops by officers from 58 law enforcement agencies in 2021, and the findings are based on the officers’ perceptions of the race, ethnicity, gender and disability status of people they stop. The data suggests that racial profiling remains a systemic problem in the state, particularly with ongoing “pretextual stops”, when officers use minor violations as a pretext to investigate someone or launch a search that would otherwise not be justified.
The 58 agencies – which include the 23 largest departments in the state – collectively made more than 3.1m vehicle and pedestrian stops in 2021.
In more than 42% of those stops, the individual was perceived to be Hispanic or Latino, according to the report. More than 30% were perceived to be white and 15% were believed to be Black. Hispanic residents make up roughly 39% of the state’s overall population, white residents 35% and Black residents 6%.
The report also found that Black teenagers were detained on the curb or in a patrol car at the highest rate compared with all other groups, with Black youths ages 10 to 17 handcuffed in 34% to 37% of stops. The proportion of stops in which no action was taken – suggesting that the individual was not engaged in a crime and may have been profiled – was highest among Black residents, the data also showed.
The report found that transgender residents were disproportionately stopped for alleged loitering offenses, which advocates say have long been cited by police to criminalize and harass trans people and sex workers. Loitering made up 1.03% of all stops, but for trans women and girls constituted 4.36% of stops, and for trans men and boys it was 4.55%. Last year, California repealed an anti-loitering law that critics had called a “walking while trans” ban, because of its discriminatory application.
People with perceived disabilities also faced higher rates of loitering stops – for people with perceived mental health disabilities, roughly 6.04% of stops were for loitering, compared with 0.98% for people without disabilities.
The board said it also examined recent research showing that police interactions can negatively impact the mental and physical health of people of color who are frequently targeted, leading to triggering stress responses, depressive symptoms and anxiety.
“This research suggests that racial and identity profiling goes beyond the criminal legal system and policing; it is also a critical public health issue,” the report said.