Activists cite statistics, accuse Berkeley police of racial profiling

- The Berkeley Police Department is under fire over allegations of racial profiling as some civil rights groups point to statistics that they call "disproportionate" and "dramatic."

The NAACP, Berkeley Copwatch and other activist groups looked at numbers from the department and came to an incendiary conclusion.

"The numbers really affirm what we've been saying all along; that particularly black folks are being stopped at alarming rates unjustifiably," said Marcel Jones of Berkeley Copwatch. "We have an extremely oppressive police department right here."

Citing the numbers from January 26th through August 12th of this year, the activists say there were 4,658 civilians stopped by officers who took down racial data. 30.5 percent were black, though they comprise less than 8 percent of the population. 36.7 percent were white, though they comprise 60 percent of the population.

"What we are demanding is equal law enforcement. That the error rate be the same. And that the yield rate be the same," said civil rights attorney Jim Chanin.

The yield rate is their biggest concern. The activists say the numbers show 38.1 percent of whites stopped were released with no arrest or citation, while 66.2 percent of African-Americans were released with no arrest or citation, and 56.4 percent of Latinos were released.

"So, what that means is 66 percent of the time that black folks are stopped, they're stopped for no reason," argued Jones.

Lastly, the activists say the numbers show 19 percent of African-Americans who were stopped were searched, while 13.4 percent of Latinos were. Just 4 percent of whites were searched.

"The fundamental problem is the systemic issue. Is that either Berkeley Police Department isn't getting adequate training, or there's simply a culture of racism that exists within this city that needs to be addressed," said Jones.

But Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan says those numbers don't add up.

"Comparisons to the Berkeley population or any city population, social scientists will tell you, that is the weakest possible measure of bias," said Meehan. "And it doesn't take into effect all the other factors that might be at play in trying to address crime."

Meehan says the department will soon be working with the Center for Policing Equity to ensure the numbers reflect the city's fairness with all residents.

"I haven't seen any racial bias, certainly nothing deliberate," explained Meehan. "What we've been educated about and we've certainly been working hard on is that implicit bias, the bias that we all have as human beings, is something that we want to be concerned about."

One remedy suggested by activists is body worn cameras for all police officers. That's a tool that Chief Meehan says he already plans to add to the department.

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