SACRAMENTO — Critics of a new report on law enforcement and racial profiling are questioning whether it’s an accurate representation of what is actually happening.
The 90-page report compiles self-reported data from police and sheriff’s departments across California.
“The data isn’t a gotcha game. We’re not collecting data to catch somebody in the act. We’re collecting data to understand a statewide problem and understand how it plays out and how we might be able to address it,” California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board co-chair Andrea Guerrero said.
The numbers reported by law enforcement agencies seem too low for some on the panel.
“It’s an insight into the possibility that not everybody who wishes to make a complaint can do so,” Guerrero said.
On a local level, the report shows in 2017 the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department handled 325 complaints and just 10 involved profiling.
The Sacramento Police Department reported only 18 complaints — saying none dealt with profiling.
“I thought it was a joke, a joke that was not that funny,” Greater Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams said.
The NAACP doesn’t see the report as an accurate representation of what’s really going on.
“I know, since I’ve been the president of the NAACP, we’re getting racial profiling cases all the time. They need to change the way they are doing things,” Williams said. “Are we not worth it? Are we as black people not worth documenting those stops? Come on.”
Sacramento police say the numbers they collected do seem small, but they say it’s an issue with the way the panel asked them to report these numbers.
“People could probably say, ‘What are you covering up?’ There was nothing to cover up. It was just not all of our inquiries were given to the Department of Justice because they were handled at the watch level,” Sacramento Police Officer Marcus Basquez said.
Basquez says unless there was a formal complaint filed, they did not report it because that is what they were told to do.
Since a formal complaint requires paperwork and time, police say alleged victims of profiling often choose to handle their issues directly with watch commanders.
“Moving forward, you know, we’re going to make sure our numbers do reflect all inquiries, whether formal or informal,” Basquez said.
The panel is also telling departments to make changes on how complaints are collected, saying law enforcement should make filing complaints easy and accessible for people of all backgrounds and allow people to file anonymous complaints.
“When you allow folks to come forward in an anonymous way that you’re more likely to get the information that you need,” Guerrero said.
The next report comes out next year. For the first time, it will also include data specifically geared toward traffic stops and profiling.
The panel hopes the data will provide a clearer picture.