By Steven Tavares.
Half of the more than 11,000 traffic citations issued by Oakland police officers last year were given to African Americans, the department reported this week. Similarly, 62 percent of all vehicles stopped by Oakland police were driven by African Americans. The data was reported during a Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee hearing Tuesday on racial disparities in traffic stops.
“We need to recognize there is racial profiling going on as it pertains to African Americans in this city,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks, also chair of the Public Safety Committee.
“It is a little late that people are still having to go through this,” she adding, in reference to the police department being under federal oversight going on 15 years.
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, along with Brooks, asked the department to break down the specific reasons for being pulled over and the violations. The lack of data led them to keep the agenda item in committee until OPD returns with additional information.
“We don’t know how many were pulled over for dangerous driving or something less,” said Brooks. A high number of low-level reasons for traffic stops such as tinted windows, Brooks added, might be what is propelling the racial disparity.
More than 25,000 traffic stops were initiated last year, according the department. Instances of African American drivers being stopped numbered 15,082. The next most prevalent racial group to be pulled over were Hispanics with 5,365 stops. Caucasians followed with 2,645, and Asians at 1,370.
Data for those who received citations as result of the traffic stops were similar in proportion. However, OPD noted the percentage of African Americans who were pulled over and given tickets is far lower than other racial groups.
Thirty-nine percent of stops involving African American drivers resulted in tickets, whereas, all other groups receiving citations hovered between 54 percent and 60 percent of all traffic stops.
A spokesperson for the department acknowledged the disparities in traffic stops persists, but told the committee that overall stops are trending downward this year.