San Diego mayor, chief and police reform advocate talk about policing at forum

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit and Mayor Todd Gloria on Tuesday discussed a wide range of policing issues in light of a recent study that found racial disparities in pedestrian stops, vehicle stops and the use of force by officers.

The long-awaited study, published last week, showed that people of color – especially blacks – are arrested, searched and subjected to force more often than whites. Representatives from the Center for Policing Equity, which conducted the study, shared the key findings with the public in a virtual forum on Tuesday.

The report is the latest study to show racial disparities in local policing. A Union-Tribune analysis of nearly 500,000 arrests by San Diego police officers and county sheriff’s deputies earlier this year found similar racial disparities.

During the forum, Gloria and Nisleit were joined by Bishop Cornelius Bowser, a police reform advocate who said racial disparities were a systemic problem within the San Diego Police Department.

“It doesn’t mean the officers are racist,” Bowser said. Instead, he explained, the problem is racial prejudice that “officers don’t think about.”

The way agents monitor black versus white communities is rooted in the culture of policing, he said.

“You see a black man and think a criminal,” he said. “I believe that when the police are on patrol, they have to reinvent policing.

“All we ask for is fair treatment,” he added.

Gloria pointed to a set of police reform proposals he announced in April, saying he believed some would address racial disparities in the police. The mayor highlighted proposals that recommend “(explore) policies that would limit the use of pretext stops and consent searches.”

Nisleit discussed recent reforms and noted that the police department intends to update its policy on consent searches. The reviews would require officers to notify people that they are ceasing their right to refuse a search and would require officers to obtain consent to a search in writing or on a body-worn video camera. Speaking about the proposed changes, Nisleit said the ministry wanted to meet the needs of the community without depriving officers of what he described as a “good tool.”

He also said that while he held officers accountable, he welcomed the oversight of the city’s new Police Practices Commission. He said he hoped for impartial and “true” inquiries from the volunteer-led commission.

Bowser said that although he supports the commission, he believes it has not been given enough power. He said the commission should be able to discipline officers in the event that department leaders fail to do so.

Nisleit said he hopes “balanced reforms” move forward and looks forward to conversations with the community. “The community has a role,” he said. “I want to hear from the community. “

The recent study, which the police department commissioned for free in 2019, looked at data on pedestrian stops, roadside checks and the use of force between 2016 and 2020. The study found that although 6% of San Diego’s are black, they make up nearly 23 percent of all pedestrian stops.

According to the study, Asians and Latinos were searched more often than whites at pedestrian stops, although Asians were found contraband less often than whites who were searched.

During traffic stops, blacks and Latinos were more than twice as likely to be searched as whites, although Latinos were found contraband less often than whites who were searched.

According to the analysis, no patrol officer arrested blacks at rates lower than the proportion of black residents in an officer’s patrol area. However, 17% of the patrollers arrested whites at rates below their share of the population in their patrol areas. More than 60 percent of patrol officers have arrested Latinos at rates below the proportion of Latino residents in their patrol areas.

The disparities remained even after the researchers used a statistical technique called regression analysis, which takes into account factors such as neighborhood demographics, poverty, and crime rates. Even after taking these factors into account, the analysis showed that black pedestrians were stopped 4.2 times more often and subjected to force almost 5 times more often than whites.

The findings will be presented to city council on June 29. A virtual youth forum will be held at 5:30 p.m. on June 30. To confirm your attendance, visit

About Natalee Broderick

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