Community Groups Accuse Berkeley Police of Racial Profiling


Newly revealed data confirms activists’ longtime charge that Berkeley Police racially profile Berkeley’s declining African American population.


Berkeley Police disproportionate stop and search Blacks and Latinos for no reason, according to an analysis of data collected and released by police.



Using data on police stops over seven months this year, provided by the Berkeley Police Department, a coalition of civil rights advocates found African Americans are twice as likely to be stopped by police.


The majority of the time, there is no reason provided for the stops.


Of 4,658 people stopped, 1,710 were white, 1,423 are Black and 543 Latino. When compared to the city’s demographics, the data “reveals stark disparities,” activists said.


Although African Americans represent less than eight percent of Berkeley’s population, they were 30.5 percent of those stopped.


Latinos make up a little less than 10 percent of the city’s population and were 11.7 percent of those stopped.


While whites are 60 percent of the city’s population, they comprise only 36.7 percent of those stopped.


That means that Latinos are twice as likely to be stopped than whites and African Americans are eight times as likely to be stopped than whites in Berkeley.


Yet what concerned people most was the “yield” of stops, or what happens after.


The data show that 38.1 percent of whites stopped are released without being arrested or cited. By contrast, 66.2 percent of Blacks, and 56.4 percent of Latinos are released without arrest or citation.


Civil rights advocates and activists said the data shows the department either has “malicious intent” or officers associate some people of color with criminal activity. Neither approach improves public safety.


“If you’re stopping Black folks at an alarming rate and almost two-thirds of the time it’s for no reason, that’s inefficient and ineffective policing,” said Marcel Jones, a member of Berkeley Copwatch and Cal’s Black Student Union.


Also at issue are searches. The data shows Blacks are nearly five times more likely and Latinos three times more likely to be searched than whites while much less likely to yield than whites.


With the disproportionate stops, searches and low yield, the data suggests what many community members say: police racially profiling Black and Brown people in hopes of arresting them for crimes they are innocent of.


“It’s a complete waste of time to stop people for no reason,” civil rights attorney Jim Chanin said.


Besides being ineffective, the unequal treatment discourages people from cooperating with police. The disproportionate policing can be eliminated by action by the department and elected officials, said Chanin.


“What we are demanding is equal law enforcement,” he said.


In 2014, the Berkeley City Council adopted B-4, the “Fair and Impartial Policing” policy. The policy mandated Berkeley Police collect both motorists and pedestrian stop data by race, but lacked a reporting requirement.


Mansour Id Deen of Berkeley NAACP shared community demands, including quarterly reporting of stop data of both pedestrians and motorists. Police should also identify police squads with high rates of profiling and retrain or discipline them. Furthermore, police should be required to wear body cameras, and the city should adopt a comprehensive policy to address privacy concerns and provide public access to records. Finally, Id Deen raised the call for a City Department of Race and Equity that would address issues like policing.


Id Deen noted the ongoing displacement of African Americans who live in Berkeley. Considering the reality that Berkeley’s Black population has been declining over decades, he is concerned to see such high stop and frisk rates.


The data provided by Berkeley Police did not indicate whether racial profiling is citywide or concentrated in South and West Berkeley, where Blacks have been traditionally segregated.


Berkeley Police said the department does not tolerate racial profiling. “Such discrimination is illegal,” according to the department. “It is not our practice and it is not part of our organizational culture.”

“Drawing any conclusion from such limited data is challenging,” according to the BPD statement. “Review of the data cannot, by itself, equate to discrimination, racial profiling or bias.


BPD said the Fair and Impartial Policing Policy had been developed with community groups, and many people had attended the training for police.


The 2014 anti-racial profiling policy followed increased reports of warrantless searches and police harassment in South Berkeley and a highly publicized “jaywalking” incident involving two Cal graduates.


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