Report: Racial Bias Evident In San Diego Policing Practices Including In Traffic Stops And Use Of Force

the Center for Policing Equity (CPE) Thursday released findings from an analysis of policing practices.

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Continuing to promote transparency and accountability in police data, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, Police Chief David Nisleit and the Center for Policing Equity (CPE) Thursday released findings from an analysis of policing practices.

Taking a community-centered approach to the report’s findings, the San Diego Police Department and CPE will host community forums to present the findings and encourage open dialogue.


Conducted as part of CPE’s National Justice Database (NJD) project, the report examined data from 2016-2020 from three police practices: traffic stops, non-traffic stops, and use of force.

CPE’s analysis looked to identify any racial disparities in police interactions with members of the public and determine the extent to which disparities were caused by inequitable practices or other factors outside of SDPD’s direct control.

The Center for Policing Equity’s analysis of SDPD data differs from other reports in that its analysis is more robust due to the larger number of stop data included than others; it takes into account crime rates, poverty rates and neighborhood demographics; and it provides a companion page for SDPD leadership with recommendations for how to use this data to review police policies and practices.


Key findings from the report include:

  • After accounting for crime rates, poverty rates, and neighborhood demographics, Black people experienced non-traffic stops 4.2 times as often as White people.
  • Black people comprise 6.1 percent of the estimated residential population served by SDPD but made up nearly a quarter of non-traffic stops.
  • Once stopped at traffic stops, Black people were searched 2.5 times as often as White people, and Latinx people were searched 2.2 times as often as White people.
  • Black people were subjected to force 4.8 times as often as White people. 26.3 percent of people who experienced Use of Force in the reporting period were Black.
  • The three most common types of force recorded were: Holds, Firearms Point, and Takedown.


Concurrently while the CPE study was being conducted, SDPD has made several organizational changes in 2020 and 2021 to improve the department such as creating stand-alone procedures for de-escalation, intervention duties, first amendment activity facilitation and management, and interactions with transgender and nonbinary individuals; creating a new Force Analysis Unit to track use of force trends within the department and identify areas for improvement; and ensuring timely release of critical incident videos, among others.

The findings from this report will inform SDPD’s longer-term commitment to creating an inclusive and data-driven approach to equitable policing. In the coming months, SDPD will continue to explore the causes of the racial disparities identified in the analysis while seeking the insight of Black, Brown, and other communities most impacted by disparate policing.

This will also inform progress toward reviewing and implementing Mayor Gloria’s proposed changes that aim to create and maintain trusting relationships through setting clear expectations and demanding strict accountability. It is part of Mayor Gloria’s State of the City pledge to work with SDPD to continually evaluate and update the department’s policies to ensure they reflect community values and align with state laws.

CPE provided SDPD with a range of potential next steps the department can take to improve existing data collection protocols, investigate disparities in more depth, identify risk factors that may contribute to the disparity, and develop targeted interventions to address those risk factors.

San Diegans are encouraged to view the report online at and join the following opportunities to hear more about the report and discuss its findings.

June 22, 2021, 5:30 p.m. – Virtual Community Forum: SDPD and CPE will lead a public community forum to present key findings from the report and solicit community input on its findings. RSVP online:

June 29, 2021, 11 a.m. – City Council Presentation: CPE will present an informational item only to the San Diego City Council on the key findings. View Council Meeting information and agenda.

June 30, 2021, 5:30 p.m. – Virtual Youth Town Hall: SDPD and CPE will host a town hall on the report and its findings specifically targeting youth throughout San Diego. RSVP online:


“The data is clear – we have work to do. We’ve known for some time that racial disparities exist in policing and I want to commend our Police Department for commissioning this study that takes a deeper dive to determine how we can improve,” said Mayor Gloria. “Over the next two weeks, we are going to have opportunities for community members to learn more about the report and provide their input on the findings. This isn’t an easy conversation to have, but it’s an important one and I encourage every San Diegan to join us, listen and share your thoughts on how we can improve public safety together.”

“The San Diego Police Department strives to treat all San Diegans equally when working to address crime in our city,” Chief Nisleit said. “From the beginning, we anticipated that the findings would likely show disparities in our interactions and bring up pain felt by some of our communities of color. SDPD expects officers to act professionally every single day and with every contact. The department looks forward to how this report and community feedback can help us improve our practices and strengthen the ties we have with San Diegans.”

“Identifying racial biases is a first step to improving police-community relations and reimagining public safety within San Diego,” said Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, Center for Policing Equity Co-founder and CEO and Professor of African American Studies and Psychology at Yale University. “The analysis shows what we know is true all around the country: racial groups experience policing differently. Systems of public safety remain mechanisms for racial oppression. By being open to our analysis and findings and listening to community feedback, SDPD has taken an essential step towards transparency and necessary change to be able to protect everyone in the San Diego community, especially its most vulnerable residents.”

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