We have long known that racial profiling is endemic in policing across California and the county, but apart from anecdotal evidence and sporadic studies it has been difficult to prove that racial profiling exists in policing activities. For example, ProPublica conducted a study in 2014 that showed that during the two-year period studied young black men were 21 percent more likely to be shot and killed by police than their white counterparts. The study was limited, however, because it was compiled from incomplete data voluntarily submitted to the FBI from various police agencies.
Two new reporting laws at the federal and state level in California mandate police reporting of victim/suspect race information in connection with deaths in custody and police officer stops. If police agencies want federal funding and to comply with the law they must adhere to these reporting requirements -- there is nothing voluntary or subjective about it. Once we have this information we can more reliably study the existence and extent of racial profiling in law enforcement and demand that it ends.
At the federal level, the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013 mandates that states receiving grants report by race and gender all deaths occurring in custody – including during arrests and detainments. Agencies also are required to report a bit about the circumstances of the deaths, whether they happened on the street or in jail or prison.
On the state level, California just passed the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, which requires police departments to report on the circumstances of all stops, including the reason for the stop, the result of the stop (such as warning, citation or arrest), and the race or ethnicity, gender, and age of the person stopped. Moreover, if the officer issued a warning or citation, the officer must report the warning provided or violation cited. And, if the officer asked for consent to search the person, the officer must report that too...including whether consent was provided and whether the peace officer searched the person.
The Racial and Identity Profiling Act provisions will help keep officers accountable because the reporting will give us more accurate data as to racial profiling in law enforcement. Moreover, because the officers have to report about the circumstances of the stops they make, they will be less inclined to abuse their power by engaging in racial profiling and other kinds of power abuse and instead be more inclined to be respectful and comply with the Fourth Amendment.