Back in December, I used this space to admit my ignorance when it came to the journalistic acronym JDLR, which stands for “just doesn’t look right.” I used it in the context of the mayor’s office releasing a 140-page SDSU study that concluded Blacks and Latinos were more likely to be searched and questioned by San Diego Police officers after a traffic stop. The study was also conveniently released the day before Thanksgiving, a politically savvy time to release such bad news, as most people are much more focused on the holiday than on something that otherwise may upset them.
The San Diego City Council finally got a chance to review and weigh in on the study at Monday’s session. Dozens of citizens also showed up to give more than two hours of testimony, which varied from angry to extremely adamant that the Council implement the 10-point list of recommendations proposed by the SDSU study. These recommendations range from revising the current system of traffic stop data collection to simply acknowledging the racial and ethnic disparities.
In the end, nothing was really solved short of the council reviving (after 16 years!) a Citizens Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations with the mayor’s office picking most of the appointees to said council.
“We have assembled a group of dedicated men and women to work alongside the city and help us create a better understanding of how to keep our neighborhoods safe,” said Mayor Faulconer in a statement to CityBeat. “The board members will bring their unique voices to the conversation, and we look forward to the dialogue to come.”
Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, to her credit, said at the City Council meeting that the police department would be progressively implementing six of the 10 recommendations from the SDSU study, but stopped short of listing specific plans on how to implement them. She also mentioned that addressing the other four recommendations would have to wait until state officials finalize their own traffic stop regulations.
“We were disappointed by Chief Zimmerman’s lack of addressing the issues of the disparities raised in the SDSU report, as well as the lack of action that we saw come out of the city council in terms of adopting the recommendations the study recommended,” ACLU senior policy strategist Christie Hill told CityBeat on Tuesday.
Hill is not alone in this sentiment. Councilmembers David Alvarez and Georgette Gomez cast the only votes against the resolution that the council accept the SDSU study, but not the recommendations. Alvarez even went out his way to call out his colleagues for not taking any “real action.” Alvarez has been particularly outspoken about police transparency in the past, leading the charge on issues such as releasing surveillance footage of police-related incidents to the public. He later addressed the issue fully in a statement that said, among other things, that the city needed to “accept this uncomfortable reality” and address it with “swift and decisive action.” He ended by stating unequivocally that “deferring meaningful action to a later date only continues the problem.”
It’s ironic that the City Council also used the same Monday session to declare 2017 the “Year of Solidarity” in the City of San Diego, capped with a 5-1 decision to back an amicus curiae brief from the City of San Francisco in support of a suit by a transgender student in Virginia. While I applaud City Attorney Mara Elliott for bringing the brief to the council’s attention, the council should and could stand in solidarity with its own citizenry and swiftly implement the necessary changes to address these racial disparities.
“We’re definitely going to keep engaged on this issue because it is important,” said the ACLU’s Hill, who also addressed the council on Monday during public testimony. “There were clear findings from the study that show there was racial disparity happening. Black and Latino drivers are twice as likely to be searched but less likely to have contraband than white drivers. Black drivers were nearly three times as likely to be subject to a field interview. These are troubling facts and council heard more than two hours of public testimony during which dozens of San Diegans demanded decisive action against racial profiling and despite this clear evidence and widespread call, they decided not to adopt the report findings.”
And until they do, well, it just doesn’t look right.