A volunteer community panel that provides oversight of the county Sheriff’s Department plans to ask the law enforcement agency for a report outlining how it will address a recent study that found deputies stop, search, and use force against people of color at higher rates than their White counterparts.

The Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board held a special meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the report, which was commissioned by the department more than two years ago and released Dec. 9.

Produced by the Center for Policing Equity, a nonprofit that uses data to help police agencies identify and eliminate bias, the report adds to a growing list of studies that have brought into focus the kinds of racial disparities that communities of color have long worked to bring to the public’s attention.

The review board acknowledged the importance of the long-awaited report and unanimously approved a motion to request that the Sheriff’s Department respond with its own report within 60 days explaining how it plans to address the disparities that were identified.

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“We aren’t looking for an additional response to the report itself, but rather the action items they’re planning on taking to address these disparities,” said board member MaryAnne Pintar.

The board also created an ad-hoc committee to further research the kinds of policy changes that could minimize disparities in law enforcement.

“This has been a longstanding issue that needs a lot of work, and I think it’s worth the time that we’d invest in as a board to help get this issue resolved,” board member Buki Domingos said.

The Sheriff’s Department did not comment on the review board’s Tuesday decisions.

Previously, officials said their partnership with the Center for Policing Equity was part of a “genuine effort to improve our policies, practices and interactions with the public so we foster an inclusive community where everyone feels safe, respected, heard and valued.”

Many of the study’s findings mirror those presented in similar studies, including a San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of nearly 500,000 police and deputy stops published early this year.

Researchers found that while Black people account for just under 5 percent of the county’s population, 18 percent of all use-of-force incidents were against Black people. Also, 11 percent of the pedestrians stopped by deputies were Black.

Traffic stop data showed that no racial group was stopped disproportionately. However, once stopped, Latinos were more likely to be searched than Whites, even though they were less likely to have some form of contraband, the report found.

These disparities persisted even after researchers took into account how factors other than race — like neighborhood characteristics, poverty and crime rates — contribute to a person’s likelihood of being stopped.

Several community members called in during Tuesday’s online meeting, which was conducted via Zoom, to urge the board to take action.

Yusef Miller, with the Racial Justice Coalition, said the report’s findings were not surprising, particularly to communities of color which have long spoken out against disparities.

“The thing that would help and be surprising to us is if anyone did anything about it,” Miller said. “If anyone had a serious discussion about it and then made changes to policies and procedures.

“We want to see action. The report is not important — it’s what we do about the report that is.”

Although the report did not list any specific recommendations for the Sheriff’s Department, it did include a link to a Center for Policing Equity initiative called the Justice Navigator.

The organization’s website aims to help police departments and communities of color work together to help chart a path toward more equitable policing.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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