The California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board (Board) announced on January 3 the release of its annual report on policing in California. The report contains an analysis of the millions of vehicle and pedestrian stops conducted in 2021 by 58 law enforcement agencies in California — a major expansion from the 18 participating agencies in the previous report — under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA). To date, the stop data made available by the Board is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive collection effort under which all state and local law enforcement agencies will be required to report stop data to the California Department of Justice by April 1, 2023. In addition to providing an in-depth look into policing in 2021, the Board’s report contains a wide array of best practice recommendations related to policing, with a particular focus on the impact of pretext stops, law enforcement interactions with youth, civilian complaint processes, and trainings on racial and identity profiling. Overall, the findings from the latest RIPA report are consistent with the disparities observed in prior years’ data with respect to perceived race, gender, and disability status.
“In addition to providing a detailed analysis of the policing activities of 58 law enforcement agencies, this year’s report provides much-needed context on the negative physical, emotional, and mental health consequences experienced by students and the broader communities that are most often the subject of those activities,” said Melanie Ochoa, Co-Chair of the Board and Director of Police Practices at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Coupled with a strong set of evidence-based recommendations to the Legislature, local jurisdictions, and policing agencies, such as an end to pretext stops and consent searches, our hope is that this year’s report will continue to push California towards building communities that are safer for all.”
“California is leading the nation in its effort to collect data on police-citizen interactions and to foster transparency and make progress towards fair, equitable, effective policing,” said Steven Raphael, Co-Chair of the Board and Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. “Data collected under RIPA provides important information to the public, to legislators, and to law enforcement to guide policy and practice throughout the state.”
“California remains at the forefront of the nation in examining police stop data,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Over the last several years, we’ve collected and analyzed information on nearly 12 million police encounters in our state. In turn, with the support of our staff at the California Department of Justice, the RIPA Board has continued to issue thoughtful recommendations for how to strengthen public safety and build trust between law enforcement and our communities. I urge all those interested in supporting constitutional policing in California to read the RIPA Board’s report.”
The information collected under RIPA includes data on peace officers’ perceptions of the demographics of stopped individuals. The purpose of collecting information on officer perceptions is to attempt to systematically document and analyze stops and searches to determine whether disparities can be found across demographic groups. The perceived demographic information collected includes a wide range of characteristics such as race or ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, English fluency, and LGBT identity. There are a number of methodologies to analyze stop data that can help determine if bias may exist, and the report relies on several well-established methods as reference points. However, as noted in the report, there are important limitations and caveats for each methodology that should be kept in mind when interpreting the data. Some of the key findings from the 2021 round of data collection and the fourth year of RIPA data include:
- Number of Stops: In 2021, 58 law enforcement agencies in California collected data on more than 3.1 million vehicle and pedestrian stops. This represents an 8.4% increase from the total number of stops reported in 2020. However, of the 18 agencies that collected stop data in both 2020 and 2021, 13 saw a reduction in stops, which may be attributable to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s lives and law enforcement practices.
- Search Rates: People who were perceived as Black were searched at 2.2 times the rate of people perceived as White. Overall, officers searched 6,622 more people perceived as Black than those perceived as White. In addition, those perceived to be Black adolescents between 15 to 17 years old were searched at nearly six times the rate of those perceived as White youth.
- Result of Stop: At the conclusion of a stop, officers must report the outcome, e.g., no action taken, warning or citation given, or arrest. For individuals perceived as Black, officers reported “no action taken” approximately 2.2 times as often as they did for individuals perceived as White, indicating that a higher rate of those stopped who were perceived as Black were not actually engaged in unlawful activity. In addition, Black children and adolescents (10-14 and 15-17 years old) were detained curbside or in a patrol car, searched, or handcuffed during a higher percentage of stops than any other combination of perceived race or ethnicity and age groups.
- Use of Force Rates: Officers used force against people perceived as Black at 2.2 times the rate of individuals perceived as White. For those perceived as Latino, officers used force against them at 1.3 times the rate of individuals perceived as White.
- Population Comparison: Using data from the 2020 American Community Survey, people who were perceived as Black were overrepresented in the stop data by nine percentage points and people perceived as White or Asian were underrepresented by four and nine percentage points, respectively, as compared to weighted residential population estimates.
In addition to the findings based upon the data, the RIPA Report provides recommendations and best practices from the Board for law enforcement agencies, the Legislature, local policymakers, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, community members, and advocates to promote evidence-based and data-driven policy reforms to eliminate racial and identity profiling and improve law enforcement and community relations. Examples of the Board’s recommendations from the report, include:
- Eliminate all pretextual stops and subsequent searches and ensure that a stop or search is based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause, respectively.
- Evaluate emerging approaches to ban certain searches, such as consent searches or supervision searches, during traffic stops and instead require probable cause for any search.
- Prohibit law enforcement from asking an individual about their probation, parole, or supervision status, unless there are articulable facts establishing probable cause that a crime has been committed.
- With respect to law enforcement contacts with youth, policymakers should consider:
- Providing youth with additional protections and safeguards prior to waiving any rights, particularly if any statements they make could lead to their inclusion in a criminal database or could be used against them in criminal proceedings.
- Reforming use of force policies and practices to take into account the physical and developmental differences of youth.
- Adopt a statutory uniform definition of civilian complaint and modify or eliminate the requirement in Penal Code section 148.6 that law enforcement agencies obtain a signed advisory from complainants, referencing the possibility of criminal sanctions, before accepting a civilian complaint.
For more on RIPA and other criminal justice data, members of the public are encouraged to visit OpenJustice, a data-driven initiative that works to increase access to criminal justice data and support the development of public policy.
A copy of the report announced today is available here. A fact sheet on the report is available here. A pullout of the recommendations and best practices is available here. The report appendices are available here. More information about the Board is available here.