San Francisco police officers are 10 times more likely to stop and search a Black person than a white person, according to data Police Chief Bill Scott presented to the Board of Supervisors today.
Total stop-and-searches have gone down significantly over the last few years. Stops of Black people decreased, from 175 per 1,000 residents in spring 2018 to 28 per 1,000 residents by the end of 2021. However, Black people are still far more likely to be targeted than other racial groups when stops are used.
“The disparities are still very problematic and concerning,” said Scott. “We have a lot of work to do in that area.”
The data came as part of an update on the San Francisco Police Department’s implementation of 272 police reform recommendations from a 2016 California Department of Justice review. The department is in “substantial compliance” with 90 percent of the recommendations, but still has 27 left to carry out. The remaining recommendations relate to some of the department’s most important reforms: accountability, community policing, use of force, and bias.
Scott outlined a number of steps SFPD has taken to combat discriminatory policing, such as regular online training with the company Bias Sync and reviews from external organizations like the Center for Policing Equity. The department is also creating a data dashboard to monitor discrimination in traffic stops. But for some supervisors, the persistence of such striking racial disparities suggested these approaches are not enough.
Hilary Ronen, supervisor for District 9, asked if stops for minor issues such as broken taillights, jaywalking, and loitering, where police make a “judgment call” about whether to act, could be reduced or eliminated as a way to tackle disparities in enforcement.
“That is on the table right now, some of those concepts,” said Scott. He said he was working with the police commissioner on the initial stages of “a very public process” to look into deprioritizing certain types of stops, and was hoping to have a policy draft by mid-summer.
“When it comes to non-violent crime,” said Dean Preston, supervisor for District 5, “we are making decisions around what we prioritize, in deploying police resources, that I think will ensure that we continue to see these kinds of racial disparities.”
“We are focused almost exclusively on crimes of the poor,” he said, adding that Black and Brown people are disproportionately lower-income, and therefore more often targeted by that kind of enforcement.
Of the remaining 27 recommendations to be implemented, 12 rely on improvements to the department’s technology, according to Scott. He told the board that he would be requesting additional funding to help with them, and was confident that at least 24 of the recommendations could be carried out by April, 2024.
The SFPD report also provided an update on other metrics tracked as part of the department’s reforms. Officer-involved shootings have declined over the past ten years, from eight in 2011 to two last year. Use of force appears to have fallen to less than half of its 2016 level, although racial disparities persist there as well; San Francisco police officers still use force on Black people 12 times more than they do on white people.
“Obviously, we have a long way to go,” said Board President Shamann Walton. “This is something we are going to keep on top of.”
SFPD’s next progress update will be on May 24.