FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 7, 2024
MEDIA CONTACT: SF Public Defender’s Office | Jessie Seyfer | PDR-MediaRelations@sfgov.org | (415) 851-2212
Traffic Safety, Civil Rights Groups Urge SF Police Commission to Override Police Union’s Stalling and Enact Policy Limiting Racially-Biased Pretext Stops
SAN FRANCISCO – The Coalition to End Biased Stops, a coalition of more than 110 civil rights, traffic safety, and community groups, is urging the San Francisco Police Commission to enact its Pretext Stop policy (DGO 9.07). The Coalition worked together over a 16-month period to urge the Commission to address the harms caused by pretext stops — the police practice of using alleged traffic or pedestrian violations as a “pretext” to detain and search people. Although the Commission approved the policy nearly a year ago after extensive community outreach and input from SFPD, the policy has not gone into effect because it remains stalled in the Police Officers Association’s “meet & confer” process. Today, the Coalition submitted a letter urging the Commission to end negotiations with the POA so that the policy can go to a final Commission vote for implementation. The policy is on tonight’s Commission meeting agenda for discussion in a closed session.
The Coalition letter states:
“For more than two years, the Coalition has proudly participated in one of the most comprehensive DGO community outreach processes. In 2022 alone, the Commission held 4 public meetings and 7 Human Rights Commission-led community listening sessions across the city, in addition to two meetings just for officers. This DGO has also been discussed at Commission meetings more than a dozen times, with public comment. Furthermore, the Human Rights Commission led an online survey process and reported on the survey results to the Commission. The Commission also publicly posted each DGO draft from May 6, 2022, until March 15, 2023, when the Commission unanimously approved to send the DGO to the [POA’s] meet and confer process. Before doing so, the Commission incorporated Chief Scott’s feedback, who actively participated in the entire process and supported the final version.”
Extensive research has shown that pretext stops are in fact racially-biased stops, as police disproportionately use such stops against Black and brown people, who are also more likely to suffer from police use of force during these interactions. According to the SFPD’s own analysis, SFPD officers stopped Black individuals at 6x the rate of white individuals, searched Black individuals at more than 10x the rate of white individuals, and used force on Black individuals at more than 21x the rate of white individuals. SFPD may be stopping and searching BIPOC drivers based on racist assumptions at an even higher rate than the data indicates. A 2023 SF Department of Police Accountability report found that one SFPD officer had misidentified the race of at least 25 individuals he had stopped. The California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board (RIPA), the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), and the American Public Health Association have all recommended reducing pretext stops to curb these pervasive racial disparities, which inflict untold economic, physical, psychological and intergenerational harm on Black and brown communities.
In March 2023, the Commission unanimously adopted Department General Order DGO 9.07 which identifies nine types of traffic stops that SFPD could no longer use as the primary reason to pull someone over without further justification. It would not prevent police from making traffic stops for hazardous driving or if officers suspect that a crime has been committed. SFPD Police Chief Bill Scott supported the Police Commission adopting this version of the policy.
Members of the Coalition to End Biased Stops – which includes GLIDE Foundation, SF Bicycle Coalition, ACLU of Northern California, Office of the San Francisco Public Defender, Walk San Francisco, and Secure Justice – provided the following quotes in support of ending pretext stops:
Claire Amable, Director of Advocacy, SF Bicycle Coalition: “Ending pretext stops is in line with what San Franciscans want — safer streets and more livable communities for all. This policy will help SFPD focus their efforts on the dangerous driving behaviors killing people on our streets and will reduce the racial profiling that has been inflicted on Black and brown communities.”
Jodie Medeiros, Executive Director, Walk San Francisco: “As part of the Coalition, we are asking the Police Commission to adopt a comprehensive policy that ends pretext stops. For pedestrian safety, law enforcement should be focused on dangerous driving behaviors, not non-safety violations.”
Naeemah Charles, Senior Director of the Center for Social Justice, GLIDE Foundation: “Glide is proud to have been closely involved in the extensive community engagement process for this DGO that lasted over two years. The Police Commission has already passed this DGO unanimously, and it’s time to finally put this policy into action for the safety and wellbeing of all our diverse community members.”
Sameena Usman, Senior Government Relations Coordinator, Secure Justice: “Pretext stops for minor infractions – like hanging prayer beads from a rearview mirror or having one broken taillight – are an abuse of state power and perpetuate economic and racial injustice, which is recognized as such by everyone but the POA. The Commission has continued to allow this injustice through their unacceptable inaction and delay.”
Yoel Haile, Criminal Justice Program Director, ACLU of Northern California: “San Francisco cannot wait any longer for this urgently needed reform to go into effect. Racially-biased police stops are ineffective and a waste of taxpayer resources. Other jurisdictions around the state and around the country have already taken steps toward banning these stops because they too often lead to violations of civil rights, police use of force, and fatalities. The San Francisco Police Officers Association is once again stalling the implementation of an important policy that has been recommended statewide, and it’s time for the Police Commission to exercise its authority to declare an impasse in order to put this policy into action for the safety and well-being of the community.”
Elected San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju: “Our communities are depending on San Francisco’s independent Police Commission to protect the public from the harms of racially-biased stops, which put Black and Brown drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and families at greater risk of harassment, police violence, and unnecessary contact with the criminal legal system. The police have shown time and time again that they cannot police themselves, and we need a strong pretext stop policy to ensure equal treatment of all community members.”