Berkeley Police Department data suggest disparities in police stops

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Leslie Yang/Staff

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Berkeley Police Department data on police stops from January to April 2016 reinforce allegations of discriminatory practices by the police, with Black and Latino people stopped but not searched at more than double the rate of white people.

The data suggest Black and Latino people are more likely to be pulled over without a reason and were the topic of a police review subcommittee meeting Monday. Members hope to take steps to better collaborate with BPD to improve the department and address issues such as search disparity, or the difference in the number of searches compared to the number of stops.

The Fair and Impartial Policing Subcommittee was created under the city Police Review Commission to identify instances of police profiling based on race, ethnicity and other demographics.

In January 2015, BPD began collecting data on police stops based on race, gender, age, reason for stop, the consequence given after a stop and if there was a search performed.

“We’ve been looking at these stats for a year now, and I believe they show a disparate treatment of Black and Latino people in a couple of areas,” said subcommittee chair George Lippman. “(But) we’re not saying this means ‘X’ or that the cops are racist.”

According to Lippman, the yield rate — or the number of stops made compared to the number of arrests, citations or consequences made after a stop is much higher for white people than it is for people of color. He said that while this trend could be perceived as police being tougher on white people, it does not show the full picture.

“The reality is that (stops without reason) are bad stops,” Lippman said, adding that these stops most affect people of color.

The subcommittee intends to determine if and why the trend is a generalized pattern of disparate treatment and to identify how officers can make better decisions about whom to stop and search.

During the subcommittee’s Monday meeting, members discussed an ongoing community outreach testimony project to collect a number of interviews from people who have experiences dealing with BPD. Members also presented a draft for the subcommittee’s literature review, which is a report created to highlight specific details from various works regarding Fair and Impartial Policing practices.

Lippman expressed his concerns about BPD’s affiliation with the Center for Policing Equity — a national research think tank creating a report to compare patterns of police stops in various participating cities in the United Statesbecause there are no clear plans on when and how the think tank use the police stop data.

“Every day that this doesn’t get dealt with, there’s like (dozens) more encounters,” Lippman said during the meeting.Each one potentially having an impact on someone’s life chances.This is our job, our oversight job, and we should just be going forward.”

In addition, the subcommittee briefly reviewed the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing report, which offers recommendations to reduce crime and build public trust. Subcommittee member Kad Smith said in the meeting that he hopes the Berkeley Police Association will be open to discussing the task force report and agreeing on recommendations with the commission to improve the department.

The commission will hold another subcommittee meeting Nov. 21 at 6 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center.

Contact Gibson Chu at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @thegibsonchu.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that George Lippman said all stops of people of color are bad. In fact, he said that stops without a purpose are bad and that the prevalence of racial disparity in these types of stops is a bad pattern.

Correction(s):
Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated Berkeley Police Department make hundreds of stops. In fact, the police make dozens of stops every day, according to Commissioner George Lippman.

A correction attached to this article incorrectly stated that George Lippman said Berkeley Police Department makes dozens of stops every day without reason. In fact, Lippman said that BPD makes dozens of stops, but not that all stops are “without reason” or “bad stops.”