By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers
The City of Oakland has released new police stop-and-search data showing that African Americans make up 62 percent of the people who were stopped by the Oakland Police Department during an eight-month period last year, though Black people make up only 28 percent of the city’s population.
African Americans make up 9,024 of the nearly 14,592 of police stops during the period from April through last November last year, more than three times the rate any other racial group.
Of those who are stopped, they are also the most likely to be arrested for a felony. Fourteen percent or 1,267 of the stops resulted in felony arrests.
Latinos were the second mostly likely to be stopped, comprising 17 percent or 1,711 of the stops, while they make up 25 percent of city’s population. Seven percent of those stops resulted in felony arrests.
Mayor Jean Quan and Interim Police Chief Sean Whent, speaking at a press briefing Monday, said they were pleased that the city has finally overcome many technical challenges and is producing accurate stop-and-search data.
However, they said it is still too early to talk about trends or whether the numbers they have collected show that police are targeting African Americans. Analysis of the data will be part of future reports, which will be produced at least twice a year, they said.
The city has been under pressure for over a decade to produce reliable police stop-and-search data. The issue is one of the key remaining unmet requirements of federal Judge Thelton Henderson’s oversight of the police department, designed to ensure OPD operates in accord with the constitutional rights of local residents.
“We’re committed to engaging in constitutional policing,” according to Whent, who said the department is focusing on fighting crime in the most violent sections of the city.
“We want to focus on the people committing most of the crime whoever that may be regardless of race,” he said.
According to Rashidah Grinage, executive director of People United for a Better Oakland (PUEBLO), “There needs to be a much more in-depth analysis of what these numbers represent.”
“We need the full story, namely when the officers list probable cause as the reason for the stop, what does that mean? We’re not going to be able to come to any clear conclusions of whether the real reason for the stop was influenced by the person’s race or not,” said Grinage, a long time advocate of police accountability
“We need to know what the specific reasons were for why they were stopped. Officer discretion comes into play and what that discretion is based on,” she added.
“I don’t think that this data has lessened anyone’s suspicions that racial profiling is actually happening. I think even the police have acknowledged that the data doesn’t prove anything conclusive,” she said. “It makes you wonder why they released it at all.”
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2014 (www.postnewsgroup.com)