Today, Catalyst California (formerly Advancement Project California) and the ACLU of Southern California released two new reports that reveal how the Los Angeles and Riverside sheriff’s departments’ patrol activities undermine community safety, waste tremendous public dollars, and inflict devastating harm on communities of color.
Examining 2019 data from the Racial & Identity Profiling Act, the report unpacks how sheriff’s departments use minor vehicle equipment and administrative issues to profile, harass, and extract economic resources from communities of color. This practice, known as “pretextual stops,” is a repackaged version of the way vagrancy laws, Black codes, and Jim Crow law were enforced to maintain racial and economic oppression under the guise of “safety.”
The reports explain how:
- Rather than addressing community concerns about serious crime, sheriff’s departments waste millions of dollars on traffic stops. For example, data show that amongst all stops, deputies in Los Angeles and Riverside counties spend nearly 9 out of every 10 hours on stops initiated by deputies rather than responding to calls for help from community members. And, amongst those deputy-initiated stops, approximately 80% are for traffic violations.
- Using a one-to-one correlation between budget and patrol time estimates, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department spends over $776.6 million annually on deputy-initiated stops for traffic violations. For Riverside County, which has a smaller population and sheriff’s department, that figure is $258.2 million.
- Across counties, deputies largely stop people for minor issues that pose relatively low safety risks. For example, out of 58,292 total stops made by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, only 487 of them (less than 1% percent) were for suspicion of a crime that could be classified as a felony.
- Research shows that sheriff’s departments disproportionately stop Black, Latinx, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) Californians.
Reimagining California’s approach to community safety is long overdue. Our state and local governments must recognize that outdated “tough-on-crime” approaches not only fail to meaningfully advance safety but also disproportionately harm communities of color by annually funneling millions of public dollars to racially biased patrol activities.
For questions, please contact Chauncee Smith, Senior Manager of Reimagine Justice & Safety at Catalyst California.