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Study Reveals California Law Enforcement More Likely To Arrest Black Teens

An annual report published on Jan. 1 by the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board (RIPA) made many observations about California’s law enforcement officers. It is RIPA’s sixth annual report. This document collects information about general police work and how to end illegal practice.

“Over the past four years, the data collected under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act has provided empirical evidence showing disparities in policing throughout California,” the report states. “This year’s data demonstrates the same trends in disparities for all aspects of law enforcement stops, from the reason for stop to actions taken during stop to results of stop.”

This report covers stop data from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021. It analyzes information from 58 law-enforcement agencies, as well as the negative effects of citizens’ interactions with police. The focus is on young people.

More than 3 million traffic stops were made in 2021. In terms of “perceived” race or ethnicity, police agencies states that 42.2% were Hispanic/Latine(x), 30% white, 15% Black, 5.3% Asian, 4.8% Middle Eastern/South Asian, 1% multiracial, 0.5% Pacific Islander, and 0.3% Native American. 99.7% of stops had 72.1% cisgendered men and 27.5% were cisgendered women.

Reasons for a law enforcement “stop” include either a traffic violation (86.6%), or a reasonable suspicion of being engaged in criminal activity (10.5%). Black individuals had the highest percentage of stops in regard to “reasonable suspicion” at 16.2%, but also the lowest proportion of stops for traffic violations (80.5%).

RIPA Board discovered that Black or Hispanic/Latinx individuals are more likely than White people to be subject to force. Black teens between the ages of 10-14 and 15-17 experienced the highest rate of being searched by police (20.1%), detained (17.9%), and handcuffed (15.4%), and “removed from a vehicle by order” (7.6%).

Black teenagers were stopped curbside, in patrol cars, for 36.2% to 44.5%. They were searched 39.9% to 42.4% and handcuffed 33.5-36% of the times. This data shows that Black teens were searched at six times the rate as White teenagers, while those who were perceived as Hispanic or Latino were searched at four times.

The interactions that teens have with law enforcement, including repeat interactions, impact those individuals’ mental health. “Research shows that the types of contact and frequency of involuntary contacts with law enforcement may have a harmful impact on the individual stopped, triggering stress responses, depressive symptoms, anxiety, and other related negative mental health impacts,” the report states. “This research suggests that racial and identity profiling goes beyond the criminal legal system and policing; it is also a critical public health issue.”

“Based on the research, the Board believes that public health officials and policymakers should treat racial and identity profiling and adverse policing as significant public health issues. Recognize that interactions with police can have a negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of Black, Hispanic/Latine(x), Indigenous and other people of color. It could reduce high stress levels, community fragmentation and poor outcomes for community members that are subject to aggressive policing tactics and targeted neighborhoods. Given this, adequate resources should be invested to understand and address the health implications of racial and identity profiling.”

This report covers a variety of information relative to the discussion of how law enforcement abuses the system through pretextual stops or searches, an act where an officer stops an individual for a minor violation in order to closer “investigate a hunch regarding a different crime that by itself would not amount to reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”

The report is not focused on cannabis details. The Washington PostIn October 2022, a report was published about the disparities in Virginia’s law enforcement. The article highlighted how Virginia’s police continue to be more inclined than White people to arrest them for cannabis-related crimes, despite the fact that adult-use marijuana was legalized in the state in July 2021.

A New York Police Department analysis of cannabis-related arrests in 2020 revealed that 94% had a direct impact on people of colour. The NYPD has seen a decrease in cannabis arrests, however, arrests for people of color were higher than those who are perceived to be Black or Hispanic.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), published a comprehensive report in April 2020 that showed the disparity between arrests of Black people and the prevalence of racial disparities throughout the country. This included both states where legal cannabis is decriminalized or legal.