San Diego Police officers make a traffic stop on University Avenue in City Heights. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

This post has been updated.

As domestic terrorists stormed the U.S. Capitol this week with virtually no consequences, one common reprieve from journalists and other observers was some version of, “They’d never be treated this deferentially if they were Black.”

Here in California, 2021 has already brought yet more evidence that Black residents are treated differently by police than their peers.

That’s because the California Racial and Identity Profiling Board released its fourth annual report, which included findings similar to its previous three. In a nutshell: Black Californians have far more police encounters than their peers, and are treated differently during those encounters. Some details from this year’s report:

  • “Officers searched, detained on the curb or in a patrol car, handcuffed, and removed from vehicles more Black individuals than White individuals, despite stopping more than double the number of White individuals (1,322,201) than Black individuals (635,092).”
  • “Black individuals represented a higher proportion of stopped individuals than their relative proportion of the population”
  • “Black and Hispanic individuals were more likely to have force used against them compared to White individuals, while Asian and other individuals were less likely”
  • “Black individuals were searched at the highest rate of all the race/ethnicity groups for all age categories”

Since the San Diego Police Department and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department are two of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state, they’ve been part of the first wave of groups required to report their stop data for these reports. Smaller agencies are still being phased in.

My colleague Jesse Marx recently explained one of the more eyebrow-raising local details from the report: that citizen complaints against San Diego Sheriff’s deputies surged by more than 2,000 percent.

Previously, the Sheriff’s Department was only reporting complaints that developed into formal investigations handled specifically by internal affairs. Now, it reports all complaints, including those determined to be unfounded as well as those stemming from investigations conducted by individual commands, the agency told Marx.

Another detail in the report is much more glowing for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department: “The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department indicated one of the main actions they have taken to adopt the Board’s recommendations has been to change their hiring procedures to reflect the county demographics.”

But when I reached out to the department for details about those actions, a spokesman initially said the agency never provided that information to the RIPA board and that it might be a mistaken reference to a different agency. Later in the day, Lt. Ricardo Lopez clarified that the agency had provided the RIPA board with information about its diversity recruitment efforts but that none of those actions was taken as a result of RIPA recommendations.

Another local detail in the report I found particularly interesting: “Los Angeles Police Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and San Diego Police Department indicated that they use population estimates for benchmark comparisons.”

When I recently examined several data sets all showing that Black residents have far more police encounters than other residents – whether it’s traffic stops, seditious language tickets, arrests during Black Lives Matter protests this summer or for violations of state stay-at-home orders – an SDPD spokesman told me that the data did not, in fact, show evidence of bias or over-policing because he believed it was inappropriate to compare numbers against general population demographics.

“I believe a strong argument can be made the group involved in the civil unrests were not representative of our city population. In other words, the demographic breakdown of this group did not mirror that of the city’s population,” Shawn Takeuchi told me last month. “Therefore, a comparison between those arrested to the general population would not provide any useful insight. This is improper data analysis. The same can be said for COVID enforcement citations and seditious language citations.”

The 2015 law that established the state Racial and Identity Profiling Board and required the collection of the data that forms the backbone of the report was written by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, which brings us to …

Weber Will Be Secretary of State

If you’d told me that a Democratic assemblywoman from San Diego had been tapped to take over for a Senate-bound Alex Padilla as secretary of state, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

But we were all very surprised to learn which Democratic assemblywoman from San Diego it was: Assemblywoman Shirley Weber. That’s because her next-door neighbor, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, has been actively running for the role and has made voting access a centerpiece of her tenure in the Legislature.

Though Weber has largely focused her legislative efforts on education and criminal justice reform, she has targeted a specific issue related to voting rights – and that’s expanding voting rights for the incarcerated and former prisoners. She’s passed several laws aimed at making voting rights information more accessible to prisoners and people on probation. In 2016, she wrote a law codifying a court decision that found people on post-release community supervision are allowed to vote. And in 2018, she passed a bill making changes to state law regarding how inmates are counted for redistricting purposes.

Weber’s ascension – as well as the departure of Sen. Holly Mitchell to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors – means there will be fewer Black women in the Legislature focused on police accountability. Weber told CalMatters that she hopes her legacy in the Legislature includes empowering other lawmakers to take on the kind of battles she’s faced.

“What I have always tried to teach, to demonstrate to others, is that you can be a change agent, you can be the voice, you can be that strongback, you can be that person and still have the respect of everybody in the room,” she said. “So if I can spark that in the (legislative) members that are there now, and they’re doing some of it and if I can even support them in some of their efforts — you know, because I’ll be just across the street — that would be worth it.”

VOSD’s Scott Lewis gamed out some of the potential candidates to replace Weber in the Assembly, a list that includes Weber’s daughter.

The Budget Is Here

Gov. Gavin Newsom released his budget proposal Friday morning. Some initial takeaways:

  • There are 144 mentions of COVID-19 in the summary of Newsom’s budget, to give you a sense of how the pandemic has influenced how the state will prioritize spending, and how it’s impacted the state’s financial situation.
  • The budget includes money to create a task force intended to examine the presence of police on school campuses and urges the Legislature to “evaluate the presence of law enforcement on school campuses and consider reforms.”
  • The budget notes that the 2014 measure Prop. 47, which changed some offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, has saved the state more than $100 million. Republicans have long opposed the measure and have backed efforts to undo it. It’s likely to rear its head in any general or special election race for governor.
  • The budget includes “$2.8 million General Fund in 2020-21, $2.9 million in 2021-22 and $2.5 million annually thereafter to conduct investigations and audits to monitor compliance with AB 1747, which limits the use of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System for immigration enforcement purposes.” AB 1747 was signed into law following a Voice of San Diego investigation by Maya Srikrishnan detailing the ways law enforcement was accessing state DMV databases to pursue deportations.

Faulconer Opens Gov Exploratory Committee

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer took yet another step in his years-long creep toward a gubernatorial run early this week by announcing the creation of an exploratory committee.

Faulconer also continued hammering Gov. Gavin Newsom on Twitter, this time by criticizing the pieces of his budget plan that have been released so far:

“In the middle of a pandemic and deep recession, California’s highest priority should not be zero emission vehicles. We need K-12 education at the top of this list,” he wrote.

The other events of this week, of course, make Faulconer’s recent embrace of President Donald Trump an interesting factor in his coming statewide run. Faulconer previously said he’d never vote for Trump, but recently told the Los Angeles Times he voted for Trump because he thought he’d be best for the economy. Though support of Trump is likely to play well in any GOP primary, being on record supporting someone who incited a violent insurrection against the U.S. government might be a handicap in a general or special election.

Faulconer’s statewide ballot measure committee, aimed at a 2022 measure related to homelessness, last year took in tens of thousands of dollars from developers.

Golden State News

Update: This post has been updated with a clarification from the Sheriff’s Department about its diversity recruitment efforts provided after this post initially published.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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