New California Law Designed To Guard Against Racial Profiling

By Kenrya Rankin Oct 05, 2015

Just days after the NYPD pledged to track use of force, California governor Jerry Brown signed legislation meant to protect people of color from racial profiling at the hands of the police force.

Introduced by Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego), the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 requires that every time an officer stops a citizen, the encounter be reported to the state’s Attorney General. The AG will set the process in the months to come, but each report must include the following information: 

  • The time, date and location of the stop.
  • The perceived race or ethnicity, gender and approximate age of the person stopped.
  • The reason for the stop.
  • Actions taken during the stop, including, but not limited to: whether the officer asked for consent to search the person; whether consent was provided; whether the officer searched the person or any property, and, if so, the basis for the search and the type of contraband or evidence discovered, if any; whether the officer seized any property and, if so, the type of property that was seized and the basis for seizing it.
  • The result of the stop, such as: no action, warning, citation, property seizure or arrest.
  • If a warning or citation was issued, the warning provided or violation cited.
  • If an arrest was made, the offense charged.

The collected data will be made public, minus personally-identifying information for citizens and involved officers. Major departments don’t have to start reporting numbers until 2019; the smallest departments will have until 2023 to participate. The law also requires departments to provide an annual report of the number of complaints received—including those alleging profiling.

In addition, it mandates ongoing training to address racial and identity profiling within law enforcement agencies, and establishes the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board “for the purpose of eliminating racial and identity profiling, and improving diversity and racial and identity sensitivity in law enforcement.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that the California Fraternal Order of Police and the Peace Officers Research Association of California previously asked Brown to veto the bill, claiming that it would be burdensome and costly. “There is no racial profiling. There just isn’t,” said Lieutenant Steve James, president of the Long Beach Police Officers Association and national trustee for the California Fraternal Order of Police. “There is criminal profiling that exists.” 

Meanwhile, in a time when statistics show that black people and Latinos in parts of California are searched at three and two times, respectively, the rate of whites, the law found much support, including from the ACLU of Northern California and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“This will provide additional data,” said Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan-African studies at Cal State L.A. and an activist affiliated with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles in the LA Times report. “If I were law enforcement, I’d think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate that I wasn’t racially profiling, that we have a fair and equitable system. The resistance to it signals to me and many others that there is a lot of racial profiling going on.”