Contra Costa County Sheriff's report shows Black people disproportionately booked into jail

More than 31 percent of people booked into Contra Costa County jails from April to June of this year were Black, despite the latest U.S. Census numbers finding that African Americans make up only 9.5 percent of the county's population.  

The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office presented its quarterly oversight report Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors. 

There have been 6,940 overall bookings from January through June this year, compared to 6,612 during January through June 2022 -- about a 5-percent increase countywide. 

The report, given by Sheriff David Livingston, included three-month breakdowns by race of those booked, which agencies booked the most arrestees, total number of bookings, the average daily populations of county jails and other inmate information. 

The report said 1,288 bookings -- 31.4 percent of all bookings -- during those three months were of Black residents.  

Hispanic bookings reached 1,307 -- 31.9 percent of all bookings. According to Census numbers as of July 2022, 27 percent of Contra Costa County's population is Hispanic.

There were 1,178 bookings of white people, about 28.7 percent of all bookings. Contra Costa is 62.8 percent white.

Asian people were booked 131 times, about 3.2 percent of total bookings. Asians make up 20.2 percent of Contra Costa's population. People of "Other" origins made up 4.8 percent of all bookings from April to June. 

"I think it is really important to understand race and ethnicity data by arresting agency," said board chair John Gioia. "Because it then gives us a sense of what's happening on the ground in those cities." 


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Gioia asked Livingston to include more data in future reports, including overall population breakdowns of various county cities and numbers regarding people cited and released without being booked into jail.

"I think that is important because this tells us an important piece of information which we already know, that African Americans are arrested and booked at a much higher rate than their proportion in our population," Gioia said.

When broken down by city, San Pablo had the most bookings from January to June, with 780. Gioia asked why there were more than in Richmond, which he said is nearly four times the size of San Pablo. 

Livingston said bookings often depend on the policies of individual police departments as to who they cite and release or who they send to county jail. Prior convictions and parole and probation status also factor in, he said.

"An agency may say, 'Well, this person would ordinarily be cite-released, but they are currently on probation or parole or had a prior similar offense or whatever," Livingston told the board. "And if we can get that data, that might help inform where these numbers are and why. Because judges may release someone, but when there's criminal conduct in the past, they may hold them."

Other notable information in the report included Narcan deployments for those in custody who have overdosed, usually on fentanyl. Those have risen from 0 from January to June 2022 to 11 in the same period this year.

Assaults on custody services staff at county jails have gone down, from 51 during the first half of 2022 to 28 this year, though assaults on field operations staff have risen from 13 last year to 16 in 2023.

Mental health evaluation team deployments dropped from 228 in 2022 to 209 the first half of 2023. Total psychiatric hold calls have dropped from 716 to 613 this year. 

Coroner's cases have remained relatively steady (448 last year to 443 this year) and total number of autopsies went from 246 to 237. 

Internal affairs investigations in the Sheriff's Office have increased from four to six; use of force incidents reported to the state by the Sheriff's Office declined from one to zero. 

Total calls to dispatch for service have gone up, from 139,340 to 146,073. 

Gioia asked what's being done about training new officers, an issue not only with many departments facing a shortage of officers, but considering an Antioch police racist texting scandal that caused dozens of officers to be suspended and is still being investigated.

Livingston detailed the screening process, including background checks, psychological tests and polygraph tests.

"It's very aggressive training right from the get-go and then we have ongoing training as part of the regular officer's course of instruction," Livingston said. "We also, I should note, will now have body cameras fully deployed. We have over 555 that have been deployed now. We've completed all the training and we're working closely with the county on getting all the vehicle cameras installed. We expect those to be completed by August. So that'll help with transparency as well." 

"Suffice it to say, if there's a complaint or an allegation of some misconduct that we heard about in other cities, we would investigate it immediately and we would take it very seriously, as we should," he said.