The San Diego Police Department hasn’t followed its own policy on collecting racial data on the people officers pull over during traffic stops. It’s a key finding of our investigation into the department’s approach to racial profiling issues.

Here’s a breakdown of our investigation.

Less than 1/5

San Diego police officers collected the race of the people they pulled over in less than one out of five traffic stops in the first 10 months of 2013, even though department policy requires officers do it for every stop. The city of San Diego and Police Chief William Lansdowne used to be national leaders on data collection for racial profiling.


Seven of the 10 largest police departments in the country have policies requiring officers to gather race and ethnicity information on traffic or pedestrian stops, even if they don’t arrest or cite the person stopped. An eighth department, Washington D.C., documents the race of those frisked by police. Data in New York City showed an overwhelming number of people stopped and frisked by police were black and Hispanic, a finding critics point to when arguing the practice is unconstitutional.


San Diego police investigations have found no valid discrimination complaints against the department in the last five years, and an average of fewer than six complaints a year were filed during that time. Lansdowne and other police officials said residents don’t believe racial profiling is a problem in San Diego. But the head of the local Black Police Officers Association, the president of the local NAACP and a city councilman all said racial profiling happens here and that they hear concerns about it.


Last month, the city of San Diego agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by two young black residents who said police wrongfully arrested them and used excessive force during a 2010 traffic stop in City Heights. A judge ruled officers violated the residents’ Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The residents did not allege racial profiling in the lawsuit, but one of them believes his race may have been a reason he was pulled over.

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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