Questions about racial disparities surround SFPD arrests report 

click to enlarge Police detain a person in the parking lot of the San Francisco General Hospital shortly after a bullet-ridden gold Monte Carlo parked at San Francisco General Hospital became a crime scene Tuesday morning after an apparent shooting victim showed up in the car seeking treatment. - EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Examiner file photo
  • Police detain a person in the parking lot of the San Francisco General Hospital shortly after a bullet-ridden gold Monte Carlo parked at San Francisco General Hospital became a crime scene Tuesday morning after an apparent shooting victim showed up in the car seeking treatment.
Black people make up almost half of all those arrested in San Francisco but only represent six percent of The City’s population.

Nonetheless, whites are more likely than any other group to be pulled over for traffic stops in The City.

The arrest statistics in particular come from a new report released this week by the San Francisco Police Department.

While the numbers have changed little in recent years, they still trouble some city officials and civil rights activists at a time when law enforcement has been put in a new light because of a renewed focus on race due, to a local bigoted text message scandal and a movement pressing for reforms of how police deal with communities of color.

“These stats closely align with recent events throughout the nation as well as through California and have given rise to significant public distrust of policing,” said Chauncee Smith of the ACLU of California.

Such statistics and numerous anecdotal events, said Smith, show that people of color are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.

In March a group of San Francisco police officers were revealed to have allegedly sent a spate of racist and homophobic text messages to one another in 2011 and 2012 and this week Black Lives Matter protesters took over City Hall.

“In San Francisco African Americans are being arrested at seven and a half times their population rate,” said Public Defender Adachi. “What this number shows, in San Francisco African Americans are being arrested at one of the highest rates per capita in the country.”

The statistics in question showed that 47 percent of all people arrested from 2009 to 2014 were black, according to the San Francisco Police Department’s analysis of arrest records. The analysis also showed that 53 percent of all drug arrests were of blacks and 62 percent of all juvenile arrests were black.

In contrast, when it came to traffic stops, whites were far more likely to be stopped, according to the analysis. In 2014, for instance, 26 percent of all traffic stops were of whites, while only 15 percent where blacks.

The department’s analysis of overall arrests, drug arrests, juvenile arrests and traffic stops, didn’t compare the rate of arrests to the racial breakdown of The City’s population. Instead the analysis compared the ethnicity of suspects identified by reporting parties and the ethnicity of those arrested.

Since hundreds of thousands of non-residents come into The City daily, the department decided not to compare arrest rates with The City’s ethnic make up. For instance, the analysis noted that 43 percent of all suspects were identified as black compared to 47 percent of those arrested.

Comparatively, 19 percent of all suspects were identified as Hispanic but 32 percent of those arrested were Hispanic. Seven percent of suspects reported were Asian while 6 percent of those arrested were Asian. Thirty one percent of suspects identified by ethnicity were white and 31 percent of those arrested were white.

Still, the assertion that many of the people arrested by police in San Francisco are not from The City, goes against jail inmate data. As of Thursday, according to the Sheriff’s Department, 863 of the current 1161 inmates in county jail are San Francisco residents. Only 241 are not from the city and another 57 have no listed address. Such a breakdown is about average for The City’s jail.

For its part, the police department, which did not return calls for comment, has recommend that seven officers involved in the bigoted text scandal be fired, and has said it has resurrected defunct sensitivity training. And Wednesday night Chief Greg Suhr announced Wednesday that captains and command staff will undergo implicit bias training in May.

Marion Jackson, a founding member of Officers for Justice, who sued the department more than four decades ago to force the fair treatment of minorities and women, said the numbers obviously show that there is still racial profiling going on in San Francisco.

The department, while it has made many strides, said Jackson, still has racial biases inside its ranks and that bias impacts officers and the public.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Bio:
Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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