SF Police Commission votes to curb racially-biased police stops

SFPD-traffic-stop, SF Police Commission votes to curb racially-biased police stops, World News & Views
SFPD makes a traffic stop.

by SF Public Defender’s Office

San Francisco – The San Francisco Police Commission voted Feb. 21 to enact an historic policy (Department General Order 9.07) to curb SFPD’s use of racially-biased pretext stops. This vote comes after an unprecedented public input process that lasted more than a year and after nearly a year of bargaining with the Police Officer’s Association. 

The Commission has directed SFPD to implement this policy within 90 days. 

Police often use certain vehicle, pedestrian and traffic codes as a “pretext” to look for evidence of other unrelated crimes without legal justification. Police disproportionately use such stops against Black and Brown people, who are also more likely to suffer from police use of force during these interactions. 

According to the SFPD’s own analysis, SFPD officers stopped Black individuals at six times the rate of white individuals, searched Black individuals at more than 10 times the rate of white individuals and used force on Black individuals at more than 21 times the rate of white individuals. 

Members of the Coalition to End Biased Stops, which includes over 110 traffic safety and civil rights groups that pushed for the Commission to address the racial disparities in police stops, commented on the historic vote:

“I applaud the courage of the independent Police Commissioners who put politics aside and voted to protect communities of color in San Francisco during this important month that we celebrate Black history,” said Deputy Public Defender Brian Cox, director of the San Francisco Public Defender Integrity Unit. “These modest but important changes will help turn the tide on the unacceptable racial disparities in police stops and spare countless individuals and families the trauma of unlawful searches, needless detentions and police violence.”  

Sameena Usman, senior government relations coordinator for Secure Justice, stated: “The vote to restrict pretextual stops was essential, given the evident patterns of SFPD officers disproportionately stopping, searching and using force against Black individuals, far exceeding rates for white individuals. We remain committed to fostering a society where everyone, irrespective of their background, can move freely without fear of unwarranted stops or profiling.”

“The Police Commission’s vote to restrict pretext stops is an important step towards reducing racist policing tactics where police officers disproportionately stop and search Black and Brown people under the guise of traffic enforcement,”  said Yoel Haile, director of the Criminal Justice Program at the ACLU of Northern California. “Now we will work to make sure SFPD implements the policy to prevent unnecessary encounters between police officers and San Francisco residents that all too often escalate and end in tragedy.”

“While voting to enact this policy limiting racially biased stops is an important step, we recognize that more work needs to be done to heal the harms inflicted on communities of color due to decades of over-policing and underinvestment,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “My office looks forward to participating in the rollout of this pretext policy by informing the public of their rights. The fight for racial justice continues.”To reach the Public Defender’s Office, call 415-553-1671.