San Diego police are reemphasizing a department policy to collect racial data during traffic stops and are modernizing their system to collect it, says Police Chief Bill Lansdowne, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. State law does not require police departments to collect the data, but San Diego voluntarily instituted the practice in 2000 to combat a perception that some officers made vehicle stops based solely on race, ethnicity, age or gender of people in the car. Officers were required to collect the personal information and fill out a vehicle stop data card to see how often minorities were pulled over by police. Over the years, the collection slackened as the department received no requests for the data.
The Voice of San Diego, a news website, and KPBS asked for the data as part of a report on racial profiling. It's an issue that's been getting more attention after it was shown that the vast majority of people searched under the New York Police Department's “stop and frisk” program were minorities. Lansdowne said the case prompted him to reinforce his department's policy to collect traffic stop information, which will be made easier in February with a new data collection system. “Clearly it's become a national issue,” he said. “We wanted to get in front of it.” A federal judge in San Diego ruled last year that the civil rights of two black residents were violated during a traffic stop. The lawsuit against the city alleged wrongful arrest and excessive force when a man and woman were pulled over after an incorrect license plate check. The suit was settled for $450,000.