Relations between minority communities and the police are the biggest story in the country right now. Here in San Diego, we had a flare-up earlier this year after the San Diego Police Department downplayed community concerns about racial profiling and stopped following a key policy to prevent it.
New Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman released a public service announcement this week urging community members who believe they’ve experienced profiling to report it to the department.
“As the head of this department, I have been clear from Day One, I will not tolerate any instances of racial profiling or even discourteous treatment to anyone in our community,” Zimmerman said. “I will meet with any community group or organization that wants to help.”
The video was released in partnership with the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association and La Raza Lawyers Association, which advocate for legal rights for black and Hispanic communities, respectively. There’s also a version in Spanish.
Zimmerman also has told her officers to scale back the use of tactics minority community members have found offensive: forcing people to sit on the curb during routine stops and immediately asking someone’s probation or parole status at a traffic stop. And the department is rolling out body cameras, which are intended to monitor interactions between cops the community.
All these things demonstrate the department is listening more to community concerns. But it remains to be seen how much impact the efforts will have on lasting change within the department.
SDPD again is collecting racial data on traffic stops – the policy it had ignored in recent years. The newest data show significant disparities in stop and search rates between white and minority communities. But the department says that the numbers are inconclusive as to whether profiling occurs. SDPD has not invested in a more robust data collection and analysis effort to provide better results.