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New Rules For California Police On Collecting Racial Data


California's attorney general, Xavier Becerra, has released revised rules for police on their beats to collect details about race, gender and other factors about everyone they stop to prevent profiling. Police departments with over a thousand officers will begin to collect that data in 2018. Some of the agencies are concerned the new rules will be a burden to police officers in the field. Some groups that monitor police conduct are revaluating whether the rules go far enough. LaDoris Cordell is a retired superior court judge and former independent police auditor for the city of San Jose, Calif. She joins us now.

Judge Cordell, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: What do you think of these proposed rules as you've seen them?

CORDELL: Well, it's important for people to know that the most frequent contact between law enforcement and the public are traffic stops and pedestrian stops. And if you look at the incidence of police shootings which have involved, in the main, African-American men, they have stemmed primarily from traffic stops or pedestrian stops. So it became very, very important that information be gathered about these stops. Why are police stopping people? What were the reasons for them? Are they legitimate, lawful stops or not?

So it's a part of these basic organizations around the state here in California to first find out what's going on out there on the streets and then, second, determine based upon data, whether or not there should be any policy changes. So this collection of data is the major first step in getting to where we want to go to having safe policing, safe for police and also safe for the community.

SIMON: The police chief of San Diego said these rules would take her officers about 17,000 hours annually to collect that data. Does that strike you as a sensible?

CORDELL: No, it doesn't at all. And the reason I say that is that when I was the independent police auditor in San Jose, our office pushed the City of San Jose's police department to collect this data first by doing a pilot, just by testing out how quickly or slowly the data could be collected. And it turned out that it took an officer approximately 90 seconds to input the data. So all the officers have to do is touch a key and then there are two areas where they are required to put in some narrative - very brief narrative - the reason for a stop or the reason for a search. So it doesn't take a lot of time. It's actually a part of police work.

SIMON: At the same time, what do you say to police officers who say - look, you know, it's tough out here as it is, without me having to account for more paperwork and being second-guessed?

CORDELL: If you are doing the right thing - if you're not doing the wrong thing out there in the streets, you should want to have this data in to show that you are not involved in profiling. And because officers have so much authority over us - they carry a badge; they carry weapons - they can put their hands on us without our permission. Because of that much authority, it's so important that they document this information. And a good police officer ought to want to document this information to prove that they are doing their jobs properly.

SIMON: Would you hope, Judge Cordell, that the act of putting in this information would help a police officer concentrate his or her mind as to whether or not it's a stop they want to make?

CORDELL: That's exactly it. I think you've hit it because if you have to write down not only the fact that you stopped but why you stopped or why you made that person sit on the curb or why you decided to search that person and what you found, it will give an officer pause if that officer has to think, this answer isn't coming quickly. That is just going to be so important psychologically and also factually for what they're doing out there on the streets. It is my hope that this collection of data will deter profiling and that it will also help create really sound, good policy for the public and for police departments.

SIMON: LaDoris Cordell, a retired superior court judge and former independent police auditor - thanks so much for being with us.

CORDELL: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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