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San Francisco PD Still Disproportionately Stops Black People

A new report found that while harmful police tactics were reduced overall, there are still inequities. Last year the city’s police still used force on Black people 12 times more than white people and five times more than Hispanic people.

(TNS) — San Francisco police continued to stop, search and use force on Black people far more often than any other race in 2021, disparities that remain striking even as the total number of these instances fell — sometimes dramatically — over the past few years.

These figures, which police will present to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, were made public as the department closes in on completing hundreds of reform goals recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2016 following multiple controversial police killings.

Last year, Black people were stopped at an average rate of nearly 39 times per 1,000 residents, compared to an average of seven times per 1,000 residents for white people, according to a Police Department report provided to The Chronicle.

Black people were also 10 times as likely to be searched as white people, and four times as likely as Hispanic people, the report showed. Police used force on Black people 12 times more than white people and five times more than Hispanic people.

But the report also shows that police have reduced these types of policing tactics overall, which are often held up as a barometer to measure racial bias in policing.

Use-of-force instances dropped by 59 percent over the last six years, from 952 instances in the first quarter of 2016 to 390 in the last quarter of 2021. And police stops of Black people have fallen over the last three years, from 175 stops for every 1,000 residents in the third quarter of 2018 to 28 stops for every 1,000 residents in the fourth quarter of 2021.

In a Monday interview, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said the department's next steps were to determine what's driving the disparities.

"Over time, they're going down some but not enough," Scott said. "So the question is, where do we go from here? And that's really where a lot of the work lies ahead."

"Obviously we still have a long way to go for true police reform," said Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton. "If the department has met the goals of so many DOJ recommendations, but we still have these major racial and class disparities in arrests, use-of-force complaints, and stops, something is not aligning," he said.

Scott said the department could see some changes after it revamps its traffic enforcement policies, a process police are working on through the direction of the Police Commission.

"It's definitely something we acknowledge ... has been a struggle," Scott said. "This is one that we have to really continue to work out to get to a better place."

Anti-bias policing was a crucial part of the 272 reform recommendations the Justice Department presented the San Francisco Police Department, as well as changes in use-of-force policies, hiring and accountability. To date, the Police Department completed 90 percent of these recommendations, with 27 still in progress, the latest police report states.

Scott said he believes the department can reach 23 of the remaining goals by April 2024, with the remaining four dependent on technology infrastructure and funding.

City officials asked the Justice Department to review the San Francisco Police Department in 2016 amid mounting community pressure, particularly after the 2015 killing of Mario Woods. The death of Woods, who was Black, served as a local flash point in a national conversation about race and policing.

The state Attorney General's Office began overseeing the status of the reforms in 2018 after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions dissolved the agreement.

In a recent status report from Attorney General Rob Bonta's office, the author praised the Police Department for its achievements while also stressing the significance of the racial imbalances.

"While the progress is noteworthy, the racial disparities demonstrated by the data are very troubling," Supervising Deputy Attorney General Nancy Beninati wrote in last month's report, urging that the department continue collaborating with academics and community members.


(c)2022 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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