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SFPD computer system skewing arrest numbers

(KGO)
August 15, 2012 8:12:01 PM PDT
The San Francisco Police Department's antiquated computer system is being blamed for underreporting Asian and Hispanic arrests for years. ABC7 News media partner California Watch reports it has resulted in the state publishing false statistics.

The California Department of Justice has been tracking arrests by race for the past 13 years. City law enforcement agencies are required byt law to send the stats to the state. San Francisco has been sending their stats in, but they weren't what they should have been.

Each time San Francisco police make an arrest, they file a police report with detailed information including the race of the suspect. When they're booked at county jail, the sheriff's office also records the suspect's race. That information is then entered into the court management system, a computer program that's shared by Bay Area law enforcement agencies and the court.

The racial tracking data is then sent to the state department of justice which publishes the information in its annual crime reports. Unfortunately, the court management system is 30-years-old and only capable of performing certain functions. "That's the antiquated system we're talking about from the 70s, from 1972. That's the system that we use to run individuals if you're wanted, or if you're a missing person, or whatever the case may be," SFPD Information Officer Albie Esparza explained.

The system skews the data by listing arrestees only as white, which includes Hispanics, black and other, which includes Asians. As an example, in 2010 in San Francisco, about 8,000 African Americans were arrested, 9,000 whites were arrested, and 2,700 others were arrested. The 316 Hispanics listed were arrested in San Francisco by outside police agencies. The end result is that the justice department has no accurate count of the number of Hispanics or Asians San Francisco police arrested.

Supervisor David Campos says there's no way of knowing if they have been racially profiled. "That's why police departments need to compile this data so that when people want to know how the police are doing, you can objectively point to information and data that's objectively collected to show that," he told ABC7 News.

In the past, the city's Office of Information Systems sent the information to the justice department but last year, the sheriff's office became the agency that forwards the data. The police commission will take up the matter in a week or two.


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