Prince James Story
The San Bernardino Police Department held a DUI checkpoint on March 31, 2023, at 5th and Medical Center Drive. Although this was a planned event where about 900 vehicles were stopped, every day under normal conditions most vehicles are stopped without such warning and with much less structure and formality.
Earlier this year, the California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory (RIPA) Board released its sixth annual report, which contains data collected from police and pedestrian stops in 2021.
The data was collected from 58 law enforcement agencies across California, and the sample size includes nearly 3.2 million pedestrian and vehicle stops.
“I think this year’s report just underscores what’s been reported for years, that certain categories of people in California, particularly Black people, are subject to more stops, more invasive stops, and are less likely to actually result in contraband being seized by police,” said Melanie Ochoa, staff attorney and director of Police Practices for the ACLU.
Traffic Stops by Race Compared to Percent of Population
The report on California is just an example of what is seen in other places across the nation where there are disparities regarding African Americans being stopped more by the police than other ethnicities.
One of the more glaring concerns in the report is in relation to pretextual stops. The report states: “An officer may not have explicit animus towards Black individuals, but may stop them more frequently because of societal stereotypes linking Blackness and crime, which can cause officers to become more vigilant toward Black individuals, even in the absence of criminal behavior.”
During pretextual traffic stops, African Americans were four times more likely to be asked for consent to search, while individuals who were perceived to be Hispanic were 2.5 times more likely compared to those perceived to be White.
Although African Americans were subjected to the highest number of consent searches, contraband was least likely to be found on them compared to every other group.
Individuals who were perceived to be White were found with contraband at the highest rate, 19.1%.
In March, the LAPD updated their policies and now requires officers to articulate clearly why a stop was made with their body camera on, and if they don’t have a valid reason, they will be disciplined.
State Traffic Stop Disparities Comparisons
According to the RIPA, African American children were also racially profiled.
African American minors, age groups 10-14 and 15-17 years of age were detained, handcuffed, or searched at a higher rate than any other ethnicity.
For student interactions with the police, RIPA recommends the following policy changes be implemented: require an attorney to be present to search or question a minor and that probable cause be required prior to any frisk or pat search; prohibit entries into criminal databases after a minor is questioned or a field interview is conducted without the presence of an attorney; mandate that use of force policies address interactions with a child and prohibit certain use of force against youth.
For adults, the board recommends the legislature adopts new policies that require officers to have probable cause for standard stops and to end pre-textual stops; that law enforcement policies prohibit both consent searches and supervision searches unless there are articulable facts establishing probable cause that a crime has been committed; and prohibiting asking individuals about their probation, parole, or supervision status unless facts prove a crime has been committed.
Riverside area attorney Monrow Mabon was driving home one evening when he was profiled by a fellow officer. Mabon worked in the Los Angeles Police Department for 22 years in different positions as a police officer and manager.
His last two assignments with the department were that of commanding patrol officer of the rampart patrol division and then the Equal Employment Opportunity Employment Division, where he was in charge of training and hiring.
After retiring from the LAPD, he went to work for the State of California in the Office of Legal Affairs. He retired in the middle of 2014 as a senior supervising attorney for the Southern California region.
“I said, why did you stop me in the first place?” Mabon expressed. “He [the officer] said, ‘Well, I was concerned because your license plate came back not on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles.’ Which means that as soon as the light turned green and we pulled away, he ran my license plate number.” Mabon shared and continued. “His demeanor changed when I told him it’s not registered with the DMV, because it’s an undercover police car.”
Mabon again asked the officer why he stopped him and was told by the officer he believed Mabon was a drunk driver trying to convince the officer that he wasn’t drunk.
What did Mabon do to give the officer this impression?
“I spoke to him at the stop light. In almost 40 years of experience with a law enforcement agency, I’ve never heard that to be a probable cause standard,” Mabon said. “I don’t even believe that to be a tactic that anyone can say is consistent, that would fly in a court of law—-to say that a person speaking to a police officer is an indication that they’re driving under the influence.”
Mabon suggests that police officers must extinguish this “warrior mentality” they have today. There needs to be more training on prevention than responding.
“Police officers are not warriors. Police officers were never meant to be part of a siege mentality forced to go in and clean up and do sweeps in the community. That’s a military operation. If you have a warrior mentality, you’re going to treat everyone as an enemy. Police officers need more training, not just physical training but psychological, educational, and cultural development. ” Mabon said.