SF proposal to collect law enforcement data on detentions, traffic stops moves forward

San Francisco is expected to start tracking and reporting demographic data on law enforcement detentions and traffic stops in response to a nationwide movement to reform police departments following high-profile officer shooting deaths of black people in cities like New York, Baltimore and North Charleston.

The expectation is the data would create a benchmark by which The City can reduce biased policing and rebuild trust in communities where it’s weakest. Community ties have become strained with the recent revelations of racist and homophobic texts exchanged among a handful of San Francisco police officers in 2012.

San Francisco is not alone in its effort. The Boston Police Department, for example, commissioned a study revealing that between 2007 and 2010 blacks were disproportionately observed, interrogated or searched, according to the Boston Globe. In response, police there will start annually reporting traffic stop data.

In San Francisco, Supervisor Malia Cohen’s legislation will require collection of traffic stop data, but also other interactions officers have when they detain people. The proposal advanced Thursday to the full board for a September vote after the board’s Rules Committee — which includes Cohen and supervisors John Avalos and Katy Tang — unanimously supported it. The mandate would apply to both the police and sheriff departments.

“It will be beneficial to all of San Francisco but especially the minority communities as well as helpful to both the sheriff and police departments,” Cohen said. “We are looking to prevent pretextual stops based on race and pretextual stops based on gender-related characteristics.”

Mandated quarterly reports submitted to the Board of Supervisors, mayor and Police Commission would include data such as the time and location of the encounter and type of search conducted. The reports would also include the outcome of the encounter, the age, gender and race of the detained person and badge number of the officer. The data would be separated by traffic stops, detentions and a separate category for use of force incidents.

Cohen noted “African American men are arrested for drug crimes 19 times more often than any other race right there in San Francisco” and she referred to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs that found nationwide “transgendered women experience police brutality at a rate of 5.8 times greater than nontransgendered individuals,” which increases to 6.2 times greater for transgendered persons of color.

Cohen’s proposal is similar to a state bill introduced by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and is in line with President Barack Obama’s police task force recommendation to utilize data to improve accountability and trust.

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