Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Shoshana Walter writes for the Bay Citizen:
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. Read more...