By Dr. John E. Warren
A recent in depth story on the San Diego Police Department revealed that the department no longer kept records on police stops. This meant that any allegations of “Police Profiling by Race” could not be documented and the absence of such information suggested that “racial profiling” was no longer an issue in the City of San Diego. Further research of this topic revealed that Police Chief Lansdowne had strangely maintained a model record keeping system of this information in San Jose where he served as a Police Chief before coming to San Diego, but failed to do the same here. Reason given: “there were not expressed interest or reports of this issue in various community meetings attended by police personnel and therefore, it had been determined that this was no longer an issue.”
Since the “community of African Americans and Latinos” in particular know that this problem has never gone away; the problem of the police stopping African American or Latino males and asking them if they are on “parole or probation” before even revealing the reason for the stop, it would appear that the problem is only a problem if people speak up or protest police conduct. Of course since this story broke, the Police Department and the Chief have indicated that the City is returning to keeping records on such stops to determine if profiling is an issue as on the statistics will reveal for tracking purposes.
Why the stopping of these males and questioning them about their potential criminal status: “parole or probation”? Answer, because a “yes” means there is a waiver of fourth amendment protections from unreasonable searches; justification, an assumption that most of these males are “gang related” and therefore such stops are in the public interest.
It is the community and not the police department that must protest and stand up against such stereotyping of our young people. When is the last time one heard of a young White male being stopped in San Diego and asked if he were on “parole or probation”? When was the last time we heard of a young White male being associated with gang activity in our community, even though we know that white males have gangs too.
Thomas Jefferson once said that “Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Freedom.” We must not depend upon others to be more concerned about our safety than we are ourselves. Something to think about.