San Diego chief talks report that found racial disparities in police contacts

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SAN DIEGO – San Diego’s top cop joined a virtual town hall Wednesday to discuss the findings of a recently released report which exposed racial disparities in police contacts over a five-year period in the city.

The report released June 17 by the the Center for Policing Equity determined that Black people experienced non-traffic police stops more than four times as often in San Diego as white people. It also found that Black and Hispanic people were more than twice as likely than whites to be searched during a traffic stop.

Upon its release, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said, “The data is clear – we have work to do.”

During Wednesday’s town hall, San Diego police Chief David Nisleit acknowledged the disparities laid bare in the report, saying the department is using the information to “help drive policy.”

“(It) could help operational decisions by me to try to drive down those dipartites,” he said. “That is really what I look at with this data.”

Conducted as part of the CPE’s National Justice Database project, the report examined data from 2016-2020 from three police practices: traffic stops, non-traffic stops and use of force.

The overriding goal was to identify any racial disparities in police interactions with members of the public and determine the extent to which those inequalities were caused by inequitable practices or other factors outside of the SDPD’s direct control, according to the research center.

The CPE analysis asserts that racial disparities among those involved in police contacts “are important to measure because they shed light on specific sources of frustration and the risk of harmful outcomes in communities — an essential step in identifying effective reforms.”

“But disparities do not necessarily indicate that police officers have engaged in biased or discriminatory behavior toward different racial groups,” the authors of the report wrote, noting that “both internal and external factors … could contribute to disparities in policing practices.”

Two young panelists shared their concerns with Nisleit over the data found in the report.

“What is my 4.3 GPA, my accolades, my scholarships and my achievements to an officer with a gun and me with my tail light out?” panelist Life California said.

“I just want to say to everyone: if you think this issue does not affect you or you’re like, ‘I don’t really care about this blah blah blah,’ one of my favorite quotes lately is that the personal is political,” panelist Meredith Wiggins said. “We’re all affected by this in some way, shape or form. So, just be aware, do research, educate yourself, empower each other, empower young people to get involved, whether it’s your kids, your nieces, your nephews, anyone.”

The report can be viewed online at sandiego.gov/CPEreport.

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