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San Francisco Police Dept Underreporting Latino, Asian Arrests

San Francisco Police Dept Underreporting Latino, Asian Arrests

The San Francisco Police Department has under-reported the arrest rates of the city’s two largest minority groups for years, The Bay Citizen reveals.

The Police Department blames an antiquated system, installed in 1972, that only allows arrestees to be listed as “white,” black,” or “other.” Faced with these choices, the department has been misclassifying Latino arrestees as “white” and Asian arrestees as “other.”

The state has been publishing the erroneous statistics in a report called “Crime in California” since at least 1999, when the state Department of Justice first began posting the data online.

The Bay Citizen explains that because of the misclassifications, the department and federal and state officials have no accurate record of how often minorities are arrested in the city, creating skewed statistics and leading to widespread concern among local civil rights groups.

But it gets worse: according to the reported data, African Americans are arrested at a much higher rate than whites. But by misclassifying Latinos, the department has inflated the number of whites arrested, indicating that the gap between the arrest rates for whites and blacks is even wider.

This is deeply troubling, especially in light of what we have been learning recently about racial profiling in the police departments of other big cities. New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy is a prime example.

From The New York Times:

Randolph M. McLaughlin, a law professor at Pace University, said the new judicial attention was a product of the numbers: More than 80 percent of those stopped in New York are black or Latino, and last year there were 686,000 stops, with this year’s numbers heading higher.

“People are starting to wonder: ‘What’s really going on here? Is this a racial policy?’ And judges read the newspaper too,” Professor McLaughlin said.

In the case of San Francisco, concerns about racial profiling in the city’s African American and Latino communities have led to city hearings and policy changes. In 1999, the Police Commission ordered the Police Department to begin tracking racial data from all traffic stops.

So what happened?

From The San Francisco Chronicle:

According to the agency’s “Crime in California” report, 8,198 African American adults and 9,151 white adults were arrested in San Francisco in 2010, along with 316 Hispanic adults. A total of 2,789 adult arrestees were listed under “other.”

The Hispanic arrest figures included in the report come from other agencies in San Francisco, such as the California Highway Patrol, that have the authority to make arrests in the city but don’t share the Police Department’s outdated computer system.

San Francisco police commanders acknowledge that some of the department’s statistics are incorrect.

“We have certainly made more than 300 arrests in the Hispanic community,” said Deputy Chief Lyn Tomioka.

By law, the Police Department is required to report crime and arrest statistics to the state Department of Justice each month. The state attorney general’s office and the FBI publish the data in their annual crime reports. The statistics also have been used in studies on racial disparities and trends in arrest rates.

Well, these studies are obviously worthless, since they are based on incorrect information. How on earth could nobody have noticed sooner that this 40-year-old system needed a radical change?

San Francisco civil rights advocates were reportedly stunned that police weren’t classifying Latino and Asian American suspects precisely.

Clearly, the entire system needs revamping, so that the civil rights of minorities arrested in San Francisco may be respected. Let’s get to work, San Francisco Police Department.

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Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes

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40 comments

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1:30PM PDT on Aug 20, 2012

hmm

12:47PM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

I don't think there should be any statistics that categorize people into races. It should be as simple as if you commit a crime and you get caught, you get arrested, no matter what race, gender, nationality, religion or whatever. If proven guilty, you face the consequences. It's like half the time you hear that the desired goal of society is to look beyond race and look upon each other as equal brothers and sisters. Then the other half of the time you are hearing about by-choice separatism. It sounds crazy, but I actually get a lot of flack for my "I see us all as equals" attitude. Society needs to pull together and make up its mind.

9:30PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

@ Nyack C. “That or we like people to THINK they commit more crime” In this case the facts were skewed to make it look like {violent] crimes were committed equally by white, black, and Latino individuals. In fact Blacks and Latinos each commit more of such crimes than the larger white population. Haven’t you ever watched “America’s Most Wanted” or do you think it was fantasy? Regularly only one or sometimes two out of the four most wanted fugitives was “white”.[Hope the term isn’t too confusing , Karen and Ed]. The San Francisco report is a ‘whitewash’! [sorry]


4:33PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

lie the cops NO NO NO ------ YES !

12:03PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Manipulation!

11:53AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

It's not surprising!

11:48AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Since 1972 this mis-categorization, and only now the error raised? Something is wrong here, esp in San Francisco, where there must be a higher level of transparency than say in the deep South; Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana. Maybe ibn 100 years, they will discover Conservatives had an errant gene in their chromosomes.

10:57PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

Anyone surprised by this simply hasn't been paying attention.

7:15PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

Why am I not surprised?

6:51PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

thanks

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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