Video of a white woman in New York City’s Central Park who called the police and lied that a black man was threatening her (the man, in reality, had asked her to comply with the rules and leash her dog) swept the internet over the last few days.
What does that have to do with San Diego?
Well, a little more than you might think.
In 2015, San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber passed a law meant to guard against racial profiling that requires police to keep track of who they stop. It also created a Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board.
The Central Park video is certainly not the first time a white person has called police on a person of color to report a threat that was never there — it’s happened to black men who were in line at Starbucks, mowing a neighbor’s lawn, sitting in a hotel lobby, the list goes on. It’s prevalent enough that it has a name: bias by proxy.
The latest Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board report, published in January, urges law enforcement agencies to conduct trainings on bias by proxy: “Officers should draw upon their training and use their critical decision-making skills to assess whether there is criminal conduct and to be aware of implicit bias and bias by proxy when carrying out their duties,” the report says.
Andrea Guerrero, a member of the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board and executive director of Alliance San Diego, told me in January that the group hopes to do more to combat these incidents.
“There is some literature, there’s some thinking about it from experts and advocates and law enforcement agencies have started to delve into this. So we share out that information about what agencies are doing and what advocates are recommending, and we call for more further exploration and provide at least some initial guidance,” she said.