A new report has revealed some misleading arrest rates recorded by the San Francisco Police department over the course of more than a decade. Since 1999, the Bay Citizen has learned, the SFPD has been misclassifying Latino arrestees as "white" and Asian-Americans as "other," which has shrunk the apparent disparity between the arrest rates of African-Americans and whites.
Civil rights groups had hoped the data would help them keep an eye out for racial profiling in the department. However, by fudging the arrest statistics of the city's two largest minority groups officials with the state and federal government actually have no accurate record of minority arrests.
According to the California Department of Justice's report, which contains the discrepancies discovered by the Bay Citizen, 8,198 African Americans were arrested in San Francisco in 2010, compared to 9,151 whites. 316 arrests were Hispanics and another 2,800 arrests were listed as "other." According to Deputy Chief Lyn Tomioka with the department, those numbers should have easily been recognized as incorrect. As Tomioka told the Bay Citizen: "We have certainly made more than 300 arrests in the Hispanic community... I look at that number as a police officer and I can tell that it is inaccurate.”
While the accusations of inflating caucasian arrests to dodge questions of racial profiling are pretty damning, the department has a more innocuous explanation for what they consider to be more like a simple mix-up, really: An aging and apparently not politically correct computer system installed in 1972 only lists three racial categories: black, white or other — forcing officers to lump in Latinos with the white arrests and file Asians under "other." In that case, the problem lies with the department's horribly outdated technology, which the department has struggled to upgrade for years. (Remember when SFPD officers finally got email last year?)
For now, Chief Suhr has asked the controller's office to look in to the department's technology issues. According to SFPD's Chief Technology Officer Sue Griffin (who was hired in 2010), the department won't be going back through to correct the flawed arrest reports. While the department gets their IT issues sorted out, civil rights groups are lamenting the lack of oversight in the department now that the state and federal databases are full of incorrect information.
As senior immigration attorney Francisco Ugarte explained to the Bay Citizen, "if San Francisco is effectively unable to categorize those in the city being arrested, that would undermine our ability to monitor police practices - particularly in San Francisco, with such a huge Latino population."