City residents discovered recently that the San Francisco Police Department failed to accurately report arrest statistics on race (“Faulty stats on minority arrests,” Aug. 15).
Unnoticed and over many years, these statistics painted a false picture of whom the police have used their enforcement powers to arrest. Credible statistics matter. Without them, it is impossible to know whether the police are engaging in racial profiling and other forms of discrimination against citizens. As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen the consequences of racial profiling firsthand – Latino men ensnared in prostitution stings through a decoy’s solicitation in a language they didn’t understand, African American motorists stopped and searched without cause, and young people being unfairly classified as gang members based on their race.
These practices are unconstitutional, counterproductive and dehumanizing. But without accurate statistics, we can’t spot them – much less hold the police accountable. Promoting community trust means more than walking a beat. It also means the Police Department can be trusted to honestly report whom it is arresting and why. This is the only way that citizens can know with certainty that they are being treated fairly by the police who are sworn to protect them.
Jeff Adachi, public defender, San Francisco