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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Racial Profiling

Every so often I get an email worth sharing. Most people end up putting their comments on the blog and that's obviously ideal.

But I got this email last night and it was particularly pertinent to the ongoing discussion of the police issues here in Davis.

So I'm driving down Sycamore Ln. just passing Willett Elementary School on Sunday...yesterday. I'm with the family trying to go shopping. I see a Davis Police car traveling in the opposite direction and following a car very closely. No, not close, on the bumper of the other car. I had to interrupt my family shopping trip to see for myself. I make a U-turn. Sure enough, two Hispanic kids are being pulled over for apparently no reason in the parking lot of Willett elementary. The police ask the driver for his license and ask him if he is a student. He explains that he is just here to play a game of volleyball with friends at the park. The cop leaves and the kid turns to me...we are at this point watching...and says "if that's not racial profiling I don't know what is."
This is the kind of situation that is frustrating. And the basic that it is frustrating is that everyone knows what is going on here. You have a minority kid driving the car, the cop pulls him over, asks him a question, and then lets them go. No citation, no warning, nothing except a question.

So the kid is angry because well they feel violated by this intrusion into their everyday life by the state.

There is no report on the incident, so we have no idea how many times this occurs, and there is no good way to study it.

And the police can always fall back on the justification that either the person was acting suspiciously or the person matched vaguely the profile of someone who might have committed a crime.

Last May heard numerous stories and they were all very similar of African-American UC Davis students who were pulled over asked either if they were from Sacramento or Oakland, asked if they were in a gang, asked if they were on probation. Probation is always a good one for the police, because then they can actually do a legal search without permission or probable cause. These students really resent this and it creates a climate of distrust between UC Davis students who happen to be minority and the police.

Last summer I saw something similar happen, I was walking through Central Park, suddenly I see a police car make a fast move, drive onto the sidewalk. Cops get out of the car with both doors left open and weapons drawn. And they talked to an Hispanic male for a few minutes, let him go and leave. I walked up and asked him and he just kind of shrugged and said they asked him some questions and he has no idea why they pulled him over.

These are the type of things that it's going to be hard to investigate for an Ombudsman. The Buzayan's of the world are violate perhaps but at least there is a paper trail. Here, there is no paper trail and the police control the flow of information. And a lot of kids leave UC Davis and that's it, they don't come back.

I do not have a good answer for this, but we have to figure something out.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting