San Francisco police found to underreport arrest rates for Latinos, Asians
August 15, 2012
The San Francisco Police Department has underreported the arrest rates of the city’s two largest minority groups for years, misclassifying Latino arrestees as “white” and Asian arrestees as “other,” The Bay Citizen has learned.
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.
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.
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.
Over the years, concerns about racial profiling in the city’s African American and Latino communities have sparked city hearings and policy changes. Accurate, credible crime statistics were supposed to be a way to hold the department accountable. In 1999, the Police Commission ordered the police department to begin tracking racial data from all traffic stops. But disciplinary records show many officers still fail to fill out such tracking forms. And the misclassifications of Latino and Asian arrestees suggest other problems persist.
“This is just extremely troubling,” said Francisco Ugarte, senior immigration attorney at the San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network. “If San Francisco is effectively unable to categorize those in the city being arrested, that would undermine our ability to monitor police practices – particularly in San Francisco, with such a huge Latino population.”
The Bay Citizen discovered the discrepancies after the California Department of Justice released the crime statistics for the year 2010 in June.
According to that report, 8,198 African Americans and 9,151 whites were arrested in San Francisco in 2010, along with 316 Hispanic adults and nine Hispanic juveniles. About 2,800 arrests are 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 antiquated computer system. Those numbers have fluctuated over the years, from a high of 705 Hispanic arrests in 2000 to a low of 283 Hispanic arrests in 2005.
San Francisco police commanders acknowledge that some of those statistics are incorrect.
“We have certainly made more than 300 arrests in the Hispanic community,” said Deputy Chief Lyn Tomioka. “I look at that number as a police officer and I can tell that it is inaccurate.”
Police officers mark whether an individual is Latino or Asian on arrest reports, but Tomioka and other department officials blamed an outdated computer system for the inaccuracies. Installed in 1972, the system lists three categories for identifying arrestees by race: blacks, whites and other. Although the department could calculate the numbers manually, officers have been identifying Latinos as “white” and Asians as “other” in the computer system for years.
“You’re making it sound like officers choose to do this. It’s what the system has available to the officers to put in,” Tomioka said.
She said she did not know when the department began misclassifying arrestees but said it does not plan on “looking back at those statistics.”
The police department has no idea if any of the statistics it reports to the state are accurate, according to Susan Giffin, its chief technology officer.
“Not only can we not tell you if the numbers are right, we really can’t articulate what the problems are, or if there are problems,” Giffin said.
By law, the police department is required to report crime and arrest statistics to the California 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 countless studies on racial disparities and trends in arrest rates.
100% not surprised by these racist assholes
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