S.F. Checking On Its High African-American Arrest Rate


San Francisco police arrest African Americans for serious crime at a much higher rate than officers in California’s other biggest cities, says the San Francisco Chronicle. The disparity is so large that experts and civic leaders who reviewed the numbers said they are “disturbing” and require an investigation. Mayor Gavin Newsom found the numbers “outrageous” but was not shocked because of the time he has spent attempting to tackle the root causes of poverty. He has asked University of South Florida criminologist Lorie Fridell to “do aggressive data analysis” of the arrest numbers and report to him and Chief Heather Fong in about two months. Fong suggested that the disparity exists in part because the perception that sometimes San Francisco is “soft on crime” may draw criminals from out of the city who feel they can come here and “not be held accountable.”

San Francisco officers arrest suspects as they find them, not based on the color of their skin, Fong said. Merrick Bobb, a recognized expert in police practices, said the city must look harder to explain the numbers. Police cited several factors they say contribute to African Americans accounting for about half of all felony arrests in the city, where they are less than 8 percent of the population. In 2005, 1 out of 3 arrests of black people involved narcotics. Capt. Timothy Hettrich, head of the narcotics division, said black drug dealers often sell out in the open on street corners, thus increasing their chances for arrest. “Color means nothing to us,” Hettrich said. “We are prejudiced against dealers.” Said Bobb: “America’s criminal justice system disproportionately affects African Americans, and San Francisco is no exception. What stands out in this city is the degree of disproportion, which is higher than what I’ve seen elsewhere on the West Coast.”

Link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/12/17/MNGF8N04MD1.DTL

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