Black drivers in San Jose are about one-and-a-half times more likely than whites to be pulled over by police for a traffic stop, nine times as likely to get a field interview and twice as likely to get a criminal citation, according to a new report from the University of Texas-El Paso’s Center for Law and Human Behavior.
The study, conducted for the San Jose Police Department, confirmed prior analysis showing that racial minorities are more likely to get stopped, searched and cited than their white counterparts.
Looking at more than 83,000 reports from 2013 to 2016, researchers found that police ordered black motorists to sit on a street curb at three times the rate of whites. Latinos were more than three times as likely as white drivers to get a field interview and, like black motorists, more than twice as likely to get cited. Despite that, black and Latino drivers, like Asians, were less likely than white people to be caught carrying contraband.
Still, the police department said Friday that the analysis showed fewer racial disparities than expected. That was apparently enough for one researcher to tell the Mercury News, which got advance access to the study and published findings from the city-sponsored report before SJPD even published its own press release, “This is a good news story for San Jose.”
Black pedestrians, for example, were stopped less often than whites, according to the report, and black and white pedestrians saw a similar rate of arrest.
“The good news is SJPD is not a department in crisis,” Chief Eddie Garcia said in a prepared statement Friday.
Police handcuffed Latino pedestrians twice as often as whites, however. Latinos on foot were also three times more likely to get a field interview, but less likely to have the incident result in a police report.
Despite the widespread disparities, Michael Smith, a criminologist and former cop who led the study, said the department has “no apparent cultural issues.”
The research found that an officer’s race didn’t appear to affect the outcome of their interactions with the public. SJPD is more than half white, about 15 percent Asian and 4 percent black. He suggested that the agency should identify disparate stop patterns by individual cops because racial profiling tends to stem from a small number of officers.
Researchers also recommended adopting evidence-based training to improve police interactions. Before ordering the study, Garcia rolled out new training curriculum focused on recognizing and limiting unconscious bias.
The analysis comes at the behest of the former Independent Police Auditor, LaDoris Cordell, who recommended in 2012 that the city start documenting when and why officers order someone to sit on a curb, handcuff them or place them in the back of a cop car for a limited detention. SJPD implemented that directive a year later, expanding the data collection to include pedestrian stops as well.
Garcia will present the study’s findings at the next City Council meeting, which takes place at 1:30pm Feb. 28. Click here to read the entire 177-page report.
Correction: This article previously misstated the number of black drivers pulled over compared to white drivers. San Jose Inside regrets the error.