Oakland Police Bias Continues Despite Oversight

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For more than 15 years, Oakland’s police department has been under federal oversight following a police abuse and racial profiling scandal. In a negotiated settlement in 2003, the city agreed to work toward sweeping police reforms, including monitoring of the department, the collection of data on police stops and an end to discriminatory policing.  There’s mounting frustration that federal oversight and better data collection have not led to real change, despite a massive price tag, NPR reports. Stanford University researchers have helped the Oakland Police Department analyze the data from every police stop and arrest. Oakland officers are still far more likely to stop, search and handcuff black people than white people during a traffic or pedestrian stop.

Analysis of bodycam footage also showed that, during traffic stops, officers spoke less respectfully to black motorists than whites. What Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick had hoped would become a national model for a data-driven reduction in racially biased policing has become the latest flashpoint for Oakland’s troubled department. Activist residents and some local politicians protested the recent renewal of the Stanford professor’s half-million-dollar, two-year contract. “I don’t understand why she needs to come back and ask for more money,” says Cathy Leonard of Oakland Neighborhoods for Equity. “Fifteen years and a lot of money. We could have housed people, we could fix our streets. It’s a waste of money and a waste of resources.” Leonard says the new system hasn’t worked to reduce racially biased police stops — a key aspect of the federal settlement more than 15 years ago. “

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