Racial Profiling Spike is No Surprise

July 6, 2020

We read with interest the NBC report on an increase in racial profiling complaints (https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/spike-in-racial-profiling-complaints-to-san-diego-police-department/2358982/).  We read with interest, yes—but not surprise.

The NAACP San Diego Branch President spoke to Chief Nisleit, Executive Chief Guaderrama and Assistant Chief Lucas last week, and told them that officers from special units of the San Diego Police Department who come into the Southeastern Police Division area use terms like “those people” and then switch to another channel and say “Four riding deep in a car down Imperial” or Skyline Drive.  “Those people” and “Four” are used to mean African-Americans or Latinx residents.  Police Sergeants monitor these radio channels, and they say nothing about this racist language.

Language matters, and what our new officers hear is what they learn, so racist language must not be permitted by SDPD.  Furthermore, such language, while offensive in itself, while demoralizing to the African-American and Latinx officers who hear it, is a clue to racist attitudes that may lead to biased policing (as shown in the NBC report), police violence, and police murder.  Such language must not only be impermissible, but those who use it must be subject to sanction, preferably removal from the police force.

Even more concerning is the fact that Police Sergeants approve this behavior by their silence.  What does that say about the supposed “Community Policing” goals of Chief Nisleit’s department?  What does that say about future leadership, when the SDPD continues to refuse to bring in outside leaders, and instead relies solely on promoting from within this pool of officers so obviously tainted with racist language, attitudes, and behavior?

Even our own African-American police officers experience racial profiling.  When they’re off-duty, they get stopped by SDPD officers.  When they ask for why they were stopped, they get inadequate explanations that point clearly to racial profiling.  Their complaints to Internal Affairs, however, get called “unfounded.”  The San Diego Police Department seems to go to any length to avoid admitting that they have a problem with racial profiling, permitting even the racial harassment of their own officers.

All of this simply underscores the need for the replacement of the current captive CRB with an independent Commission on Police Practices, so the IA department’s whitewashing of complaints can be exposed and remedied.

America’s Finest City deserves America’s Finest Leadership, not an inbred racist culture in the upper echelons of the San Diego Police Department.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch