Black drivers are 4.4 times more likely to be stopped by SFPD than white drivers, data shows

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In light of protests amid George Floyd's death and most recently the shooting of Jacob Blake, there have been calls to defund the police, demands for fairness and equality, and promises for change.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott thinks that's a good thing. "The energy for change is unlike anything I've ever seen in my 31 years in this profession," he said.

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But an ABC7 I-Team investigation of traffic stop data from 2014 to 2020 found traffic stop disparities across San Francisco have gotten worse over the past six and a half years.

Between July 2018 and March 2020, Black drivers were 4.4 times more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers. This is up from 2014 to 2017 where Black drivers were 3 times more likely to get pulled over by police.


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"I'm used to it," said Bob Pelling. "I was stopped along Folsom street and I felt I didn't even have a chance."

Pelling said the officer stopped him and asked him about his front license plate.

"I told him it is right there...on the front of the car," he said. "So he walks to the front of the car, sees the plate there, and walks back and says 'Oh you were speeding.'"

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Louis Thompson told ABC7 it happens to him all the time.

"Sometimes I think they just stop me because of my color," Thompson said. "It feels like they have to meet a quota."

Winn Reece is tired of it.

"It started happening a lot," Reece said. "I've been stopped dozens of times based on a hunch."

According to SFPD, in the first quarter of 2019, Black men and women made up 25 percent of police stops in San Francisco - despite making up roughly 6 percent of the population.

In the first quarter of 2020, that figure went down slightly to 23 percent.

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In a brief video posted Saturday night on Twitter by his family's lawyer, Ben Crump, Blake says from his hospital bed that he's in constant pain from the shooting.



White men and women made up 35 percent of traffic stops (1st quarter or 2019 & 1st quarter of 2020) yet account for roughly 48 percent of the population.

"We are not done yet," said Chief Scott. "We have a lot of work to do in that regard."

According to our analysis, disparities are deepening in both search and arrest rates. For example, from 2018 to 2020, Black men were 4.8 times more likely to be searched than white men. Furthermore, Black women were 3.7 times more likely to be searched than white women.

"A lot of innocent African Americans have been stopped over the years, based on a hunch or for no reason at all, and mainly because they're black," said civil rights attorney John Burris. "That is a horrible thing."

Burris pointed out the data isn't getting better.

ABC7's data analysis found Black and Hispanic men and women are twice as likely to be stopped, even when they didn't commit a crime.


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It happened to Jose Caldeeron in San Francisco.

"I was just filling up my gas tank and for no reason the cops just pulled up and asked for my name and ID," he said. "He asked if I had any drugs in Spanish. I felt racially profiled because I was talking back in English, it didn't feel right."

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In an interview with ABC7, Chief Scott admitted many of the statistics are alarming, but noted the department is working on improving training for officers and bolstering data collection.

"What have you specifically done?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"We've hired an attorney to really dig into the training. To make sure we are up to date on the training, case law and all of that," said Chief Scott. "So that no one is left behind when it comes to constitutional policing."

But, what Burris argues hasn't happened? Proper discipline.

According to a public records request, in 2019 there were more than 700 complaints filed against San Francisco police officers. 86 of those complaints were sustained, indicating an investigation found them to be valid. Of those 86 complaints, more than 120 officers were cited for improper conduct. Yet, ABC7 found a dozen of those officers already had a history of citations, yet faced no permanent discipline.

"In order for any of this to work, the other officers have to know if you engage in this type of conduct, you are going to be punished," said Burris.

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Thursday the City of Tiburon and City of Belvedere held a joint virtual community meeting about an incident where officers questioned a Black business owner, who was working late in his store last week.



Stephanie Sierra: "How do you go about the discipline process? At what point do you say two sustained complaints is two too many?"

Chief Scott: "We have to respect due process, because if we don't... what ends up happening is the very officers that need to go, we end up needing to hire them back because we didn't follow due process or some technicality."

Although, Burris argues the entire system isn't following due process if what happened to Pelling, Gentry, Reece, and Caldeeron doesn't stop.

"Everybody else looking at us like we're a bad guy, like we're up to something," Gentry said. "It's that hurting feeling. I'm not playing the race game...that's just the way it is."

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