Historically, San Diego Law Enforcement officers have been accused of racial profiling for as long as immigrants and persons of color have been living there. The highest percentage of undocumented immigrants are those who came into the United States legally but did not leave when their visas expired, at last check about 42% of the population. In California, Mexicans make up 69% of the state’s unauthorized immigrant population, and they numbered more than 1.5 million in 2016 – the highest total of any state. What does this mean for bias based policing? Now that new laws have been passed outlining what an officer is allowed to do during a traffic stop, it could possibly lead to an increase in bias-based traffic stops since federal agents are requesting the assistance of local county and city police with regard to cracking down on illegal immigrants in their communities.
Traffic Stops and RIPA.
San Diego police officers stop hundreds of people a day, and now under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act or RIPA, they must answer multiple questions about those encounters. The formal questionnaire includes information pertaining to a person’s race, age and gender and why the officer stopped them. The San Diego Police Department and the seven other law enforcement agencies in California including the California Highway Patrol, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the San Francisco Police Department will share answers to these and additional questions for a state profiling report which will be available in 2020. The purpose of the RIPA document is to monitor a pattern of traffic stop activities that might point to racial basis of a select class or race of citizens in San Diego. This data is supposed to be used to make positive strides for California Peace Officers Standards and Training modules to create new policy geared at activities in the community to rebuild trust and a positive presence reducing policing due to racial bias.
Sharing of Data with Border Patrol and Other Law Enforcement.
The San Diego Police Department has shared its license plate database with border patrol and other agencies. Agencies that can see the data range from Border Patrol Enforcement officers to tiny local police departments across the country. Racial bias may be induced by the knowledge in this data base when immigration officers are tracking down citizens with questionable legal status. Since the Border Patrol agents have a different criteria for traffic stops than the San Diego Police Department, has there been a violation of civil rights by the San Diego Police Department for sharing information?
Traffic Stop Activity.
Behavior during a routine traffic stop by San Diego Police should play out somewhat like this:
- Officer will direct you to a safe place to stop vehicle;
- Officer will approach you, sometimes safer for them to come up on passenger side of vehicle and gives them a better view of your car interior and hands;
- Officer will ask for you driver’s license, insurance and car registration, and hopefully tell you why you were pulled over;
- Officer will go back to his vehicle to run your information and make sure it is valid;
- Officer will return to your vehicle, give you back your credentials, and a citation or a warning of the offense they pulled you over for and send you on your way;
- Never leave your vehicle unless an officer instructs you to do so;
- If you are pulled over at night, put on interior light, and keep hands on wheel so officer can see where they are;
- Have information ready for them;
- Do not act inappropriately as to cause suspicion;
- Answer questions politely and within reason.
The San Diego Police Department officers have policy against bias-based policing techniques and training is required to make sure they do not utilize any form of bias during community policing through traffic stops. Unfortunately, there are some law enforcement officers who acknowledge unconscious bias as a factor and are involved in enhanced training to address that.
File a Complaint.
If you believe your “traffic stop” was racially motivated, you should file a complaint with the department, so the incident is investigated. A citizen who believes they have been a victim of police misconduct including bias-based profiling, should make a complaint by: 1) calling the San Diego Police Department Communications Division at (619) 531-2000. A supervisor will be dispatched to contact the reporting citizen as soon as possible; 2) coming in to any police facility; 3) calling or writing to the Chief of Police 1401 Broadway, MS 700, San Diego, CA 92101 or emailing [email protected]; or 4) calling or writing to the Internal Affairs Unit, 1401 Broadway, MS 709, San Diego CA 92101, (619) 531-2801; 4) contacting the Office of the Mayor, City of San Diego, 202 C St., San Diego CA 92101; or reaching out to the Community Review Board on Police Practices, 202 C Street, MS 9A, San Diego CA 92101, (619) 236-6296 [email protected].
Hire a Lawyer.
If you feel you have been a victim of police misconduct through racially-motivated traffic stops, and you have have filed a complaint with the San Diego Police Department but want further action in your case, hire an attorney who is familiar with claims of police misconduct and violations of civil rights.