For Immediate Release: May 11, 2022
Emma Tozer, GLIDE Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org, (301) 383-3128
Valerie Ibarra, SF Public Defender’s Office, Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org, (628) 249-7946
Coalition of 60 Civil Rights, Traffic Safety, and Community Groups Urging San Francisco Police Commission to End Racially-Biased Pretext Stops
SAN FRANCISCO — Today at 11:00 AM, the Coalition to End Biased Stops held a virtual press conference to call for an end to racially-biased traffic stops, also known as “driving, bicycling, or walking while Black or brown” or “pretext stops.” The press conference was held with members of the Board of Supervisors, Police Commissioners, the Coalition, and community leaders in anticipation of the San Francisco Police Commission tonight at 5:30PM introducing potential reforms to the Police Department’s traffic enforcement policies.
The Coalition to End Biased Stops is committed to ending racially-biased traffic stops by police in San Francisco, and has been building support for these changes over the past eight months. Police use these alleged traffic violations as a “pretext” to detain and search people, wreaking untold economic, physical, psychological, and intergenerational harm, especially against Black and brown San Franciscans.
The San Francisco Police Department’s stop and search data were discussed at a Board of Supervisors meeting on March 22. The numbers are stark: the SFPD continues to stop, search, and use force against Black people in San Francisco at a far higher rate than white people. Last year, Black people, as compared to white people, were almost six times more likely to be stopped, ten times more likely to be searched, and 12 times more likely to be subject to the use of force.
Black San Franciscans make up less than 5% of the population of San Francisco but account for 27% of all stops and 37% of all searches. Other jurisdictions have already taken initial or significant steps toward banning pretext stops, including Cambridge, MA; Montgomery County, MD; Berkeley and Los Angeles; Minneapolis and Ramsey County, MN; Philadelphia, PA; Virginia; and Washington, D.C.
On March 25, 2022, the Coalition sent a letter signed by 60 organizations to the Police Commission outlining their recommendations to prohibit pretext stops. Now, the Coalition to End Biased Stops is mobilizing community members and organizations involved in their campaign to advocate for these reforms at the Commission meeting tonight on May 11th.
The draft Department General Order that will be introduced by Commissioner Max Carter-Oberstone is a step in the right direction in starting the conversation about ending pretext stops. To ensure Black and brown community members are protected from all pretext stops, the Coalition will be advocating for a comprehensive list of codes for which SFPD cannot stop drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
Members of the Coalition to End Biased Stops – which includes GLIDE Foundation, Council on American-Islamic Relations California, the ACLU of Northern California, Office of the San Francisco Public Defender, SF Bicycle Coalition, and Walk San Francisco – provided the following quotes in support of ending pretext stops:
Miguel Bustos, Senior Director of GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice, said, “Many GLIDE clients have been harmed by racially-biased pretext stops and repeated harassment. Pretext stops further alienate some or our most marginalized neighbors and make them feel as though they are not welcome in their own community. These negative interactions perpetrate physical, psychological, and financial harm; they inflict and reinforce trauma on our community, particularly communities of color.”
Mano Raju, San Francisco Public Defender, said, “Time and again we have seen how racially-biased pretext stops have led to police violence against Black and brown community members across the country. We have a chance now in San Francisco to protect people’s rights and lives by ending these unnecessary law enforcement interactions. We are grateful to the large number of city officials and community leaders who support the coalition’s comprehensive vision for ending all pretext stops.”
Sameena Usman, Senior Government Relations Coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-SFBA, said, “Pretext stops are an excuse to pull people over for simple things such as an item hanging from a rearview mirror or tinted windows, and question, search, and even detain people. They do not help public safety and they disproportionately target communities of color, especially Black people.”
Avi Frey, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Program, ACLU of Northern California, said “Pretext stops do nothing for public safety and routinely escalate into violence against Black and brown people. Their use is a constant reminder that the freedoms and lives of people of color are at the mercy of a government that views them as suspect. It is past time to abolish this tool of racial oppression.”