Berkeley Police Officers At Work (photo courtesy

A Statistical Example Of Anti-Black Racism By Berkeley Police

The following is part of an agenda report to the Berkeley City Council on police practices against African Americans by Berkeley Police. It’s by the Berkeley Mayor’s Fair and Impartial Policing Working Group.

The Fair and Impartial Policing Working Group has received three contemporaneous studies of the BPD’s stops as published on the City’s Open Data Portal. The following patterns emerge from this data as shown in these studies:

1. Berkeley’s stop rate for African Americans is over three times greater than Oakland’s.Annually, African Americans are stopped by police according to BPD records at a rate of 32.7% (3,083 stops of African Americans compared to 10,331 African American Berkeley residents). In Oakland, the corresponding stop rate is 10.4% (10,874 compared to a total of 104,310 African American Oakland residents).

2. During the first 13 weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic from March 15 to June 12, the disparity between stops of Black and White civilians in Berkeley skyrocketed. African American stops were exactly 50% of total 608 stops at 304, with White stops were 143 for 23.52% of all stops. Taking into account the low number of African Americans residing in Berkeley, the disparities are even starker: African American stops are about 42.7 per 1,000 of their population, where White stops are about 2.9 per 1,000, a disparity of 14.5 to 1, twice the disparity in 2018.3. The discriminatory stops exploded under the Black Lives Matter curfew at the end of May.

In three days from May 31 to June 2, 92 African Americans and 18 Latinx people were pulled over by Berkeley police, compared to just 18 White people.

This is a disparity in raw numbers of five to one. Based on stops per 1,000 of ethnic population.

Black civilians were nearly 35 times more likely to be stopped than Whites during the curfew.There has been no meaningful response from the BPD to either confirm and account for the disparities, convincingly explain why the critical analysis is incorrect, or give some alternative interpretation of the data. Instead the department has simply ignored the data and the evidence that it discriminates in its treatment of Black, Latinx, and White civilians. BPD representatives quibble over side issues such as whether the data is skewed by stops of Black people coming into Berkeley from outside, or a theory that police are being nice to Black people by issuing them only warnings whereas they ticket White civilians in similar circumstances.

The Fair and Impartial Working Group does not want its recommendations to go the way of prior recommendations and directives from the City Council, CPE, and PRC. As shown above, the City Manager and Chief of Police have failed to execute the policies set by the elected officials. The City Council must ensure that staff act promptly to bring Berkeley policing into compliance with constitutional principles, particularly equal protection under the law.

A statistic that jumps out is that “Black civilians were nearly 35 times more likely to be stopped than Whites during the curfew” – and this is in the 21st Century. There’s no good excuse for such a racist pattern to persist for so long in Berkeley. After all, racism is a mental illness.

Stay tuned.

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