Since the Racial and Identify Profiling Advisory (RIPA) Board’s inception, PORAC has offered to be a good-faith partner. After all, if the board was supposedly created to improve the practice of traffic enforcement, shouldn’t they want to hear from the people who do it? Yet time and again, they show us that they are bad-faith actors. The board often seems to exist to confirm the bias of a majority of its members.
The RIPA Board’s lack of understanding about routine police operations is quite frankly unacceptable. That is why PORAC has strongly advocated for adding a requirement that its non-law-enforcement members participate in some form of police training or education. Board member and PORAC representative Rich Randolph has offered several educational opportunities to his colleagues to improve their basic comprehension of how law enforcement operates, including ride-alongs and attending POST training sessions, so that all RIPA Board members can truly understand the profession that they are charged with assessing.
In addition to educating the board members, as the voice of law enforcement in California, PORAC is advocating on several fronts for a more informed, transparent RIPA Board. After releasing our first critical analysis earlier this year (see tinyurl.com/36dvr2w4), we hoped that the board would work with the law enforcement community to improve their methodology and data collection process. At a meeting of the RIPA Board’s traffic stop data subcommittee, a member of the public asked if anyone on the board had read PORAC’s analysis of their report and if they planned to take any of our recommendations into consideration. The question went unaddressed, and I can tell you that we never received contact from the board.
That is why we once again commissioned Dr. Brian Withrow, a leading national expert in racial profiling, to conduct a comparative analysis of the RIPA Board’s 2022 and 2023 reports in yet another attempt to highlight opportunities to improve their future assessments of racial profiling. We found several inconsistencies that call into question their findings in previous reports. Most importantly, they removed the “Veil of Darkness” analysis without any explanation. The “Veil of Darkness” analysis, which is more of a statistical guess than an actual test, suggests that any racial disparities in traffic stops in the daytime versus the nighttime were because officers were unable to see the drivers at night and were unable to profile them. However, despite this being a cornerstone of their 2022 assessment, the RIPA Board removed the analysis in this year’s report without any reason as to why.
This is a pattern we found throughout the 2023 RIPA report. We also found their egregious claim that police presence does more to traumatize residents than improve relations was solely based on incidents where police-involved force occurred. This cherry-picked data is dangerous, and something we call out strongly in our analysis. You can read PORAC’s full comparative analysis of the RIPA reports at tinyurl.com/48nnj7cc to learn more about our concerns and our policy suggestions for improving their reports moving forward.
At the end of the day, the RIPA Board falls under the direction of the Attorney General. In fact, the board is staffed by the Civil Rights Division and their attorneys for the Department of Justice. When we received zero engagement from the RIPA Board, we felt it was necessary to reach out directly to AG Rob Bonta through a letter outlining our concerns and offering a meeting to talk through our shared goal of using traffic stop data to better understand and improve community policing throughout California. Unfortunately, these attempts have once again been unsuccessful. But we are not deterred. In fact, our efforts have led to legislative victories.
We know lawmakers take the RIPA Board’s conclusions seriously, even if they are woefully uninformed. For example, Senator Steven Bradford introduced Senate Bill 50 this year, which would have effectively banned pretextual stops. This misguided approach was based on the 2023 RIPA report that identified far more pretextual stops than actually occurred because of an error on the RIPA form. Let me explain.
The RIPA Board considers any stop pretextual if there is a difference between an officer’s reported reason for the stop and the action taken. This perspective fails to consider the multitude of reasons why an officer makes a stop. There is no clear way for an officer to report their “hunch” when investigating potential contraband in a vehicle. All it takes to avoid this misrepresentation of data and fix the form is for the RIPA Board to have a conversation with a peace officer who has done traffic enforcement duty — something they refuse to do. However, we’re proud to say that PORAC’s analysis of the RIPA report helped contribute to the successful effort to stop the legislation from moving forward in the 2023 legislative session and becoming law.
PORAC always welcomes collaboration with the RIPA Board to accurately assess the state of profiling in California. I remain confident that if our organization continues to provide objective data recommendations and our experienced law enforcement perspective, we will break through the noise.
It’s hard to believe the holidays are already upon us. I wish you and your families a happy Thanksgiving. While the food and football are always fun, the best part of this holiday is getting together and spending time with our loved ones. I’m reminded of a word we’ve heard a lot this year: solidarity. From autoworkers to screenwriters, there is power in uniting around a shared cause. This idea is not only at PORAC’s core, but also at America’s: E Pluribus Unum. Instead of gearing up for a Thanksgiving dinner debate, let’s focus on what brings us together. My hope is that the solidarity of our profession can serve as an inspiration to those who look for ways to keep us divided.
Thank you all for being examples of service over self as we celebrate the timeless act of giving to others this month.
And to my fellow veterans, happy Veterans Day!