Kathleen Ronayne
California-based climate change and environment reporter

Report: California police stops down significantly in 2020

December 31, 2021 GMT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Traffic and pedestrian stops by California law enforcement agencies dropped significantly in 2020 compared to the year before, but Black or transgender people were still more likely to be searched than white or cisgender people, according to a state report released Friday.

The annual report by California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board gathered data on stops by officers from 18 law enforcement agencies. The data includes what officers perceived to be the race, ethnicity, gender and disability status of people they stop so that the state can better identify and analyze bias in policing.

Collectively, those agencies stopped 2.9 million people in 2020. That’s 26.5% fewer stops than recorded in 2019, when three fewer agencies reported data. Officials attributed the drop to the pandemic, which kept many people home and reordered life in the nation’s most populous state.


The report did not include data on how many fewer stops occurred for different racial groups or genders. But its authors cited news articles and national data showing the decrease in police stops during the pandemic was greater for white people than Black people.

The new report analyzing 2020 stops is the board’s fifth, and it’s consistent with past reports that show Black people are searched 2.4 times more than white people and disproportionately more than other racial and ethnic groups. It also found people perceived to be transgender women were 2.5 times more likely to be searched than women who appear to be cisgender.

The data includes how officers perceive an individuals race or gender, even if it’s different than how the person identifies, because the officer’s perception is what drives bias.

The state’s largest law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, provided data for the report. But CHP’s data was not included in the section of the report analyzing stops based on gender identity due to a reporting error.

All agencies have to start reporting the data in 2023. The board’s work informs agencies, the state’s police office training board and state lawmakers as they change policies and seek to decrease racial disparities and bias in policing.

“The data in this report will be used by our profession to evaluate our practices as we continue to strive for police services that are aligned with our communities’ expectations of service,” Chief David Swing, co-chair of the board and past-president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said in a statement.

Fresno’s police department saw the greatest drop in overall stops — 72% — compared to 2019, according to the report. Stops by the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department were down 47%. The Riverside County sheriff’s department saw the smallest drop at just 2.5%.


Of all the recorded stops in 2020, 40% of people were believed to be Hispanic, 16.5% Black, 31.7% white, 5.2% Asian, and 4.7% Middle Eastern or South Asian. Black people make up just 6.5% of the state’s population. Officers stopped 445,000 more white people than Black people, but took action against 9,431 more Black people, according to the report.

Overall, Black people were most likely to be searched, detained, handcuffed and ordered to exit their vehicles. Officers were more likely to use force against Black and Hispanic people, the data showed. People perceived as Asian had a lower chance of having force used against them than white people.

The board provided more in-depth analysis than in past reports for stops of people perceived to be transgender or gender nonconforming and people perceived to have disabilities.

Transgender women had action take against them nearly 62% of the time, more than people from any other gender identity. They also had the highest rate of being handcuffed or detained, while transgender men had the highest rate of being searched.

Police officers used force against people with perceived mental health disabilities five times more than people without.

Among the board’s recommendations to reduce bias against transgender people: Require multiple hours of LGBT-specific training for officers, prohibit frisking of people solely to figure out their gender, and adopt policies that say transgender individuals can’t be asked to remove items like wigs or undergarments unless cisgender people face the same requirement.

The board also recommends agencies adopt written policies committing to end profiling of people with disabilities and providing clear guidance for dealing with people in crisis.

Meanwhile, the board said more legislation or work should be done to clarify a 2020 law that requires peace officers to be “free” of bias against protected groups. The board noted there is a lack of consensus on whether someone can truly be “free” of bias. It suggested lawmakers create funding for research and community groups to come up with better ways to analyze applicant’s implicit biases.