Center for Policing Equity and BART PD release findings from policing practices study

01.14.21

Center for Policing Equity and BART PD release findings from policing practices study

Today, the Center for Policing Equity (CPE) and the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department (BPD) released the findings of an analysis on the department’s policing practices and behaviors. Conducted as part of CPE’s National Justice Database (NJD) project, the report examined the incidences of vehicle stops, pedestrian stops, and use of force from 2014 to 2018.

BPD is the first transit law enforcement agency in the country to undergo such a review by CPE. BPD voluntarily agreed to this process with the hope the findings would form the foundation of a data-driven approach to ensuring equitable policing. The report will be presented to the BART Board of Directors.

With data provided by BPD, CPE’s analysis looked to identify any racial disparities in police interactions with civilians, determine if disparities were caused by inequitable practices or other factors, and identify any attitudinal dispositions by officers or within the department that may be risk factors for inequitable practices.  The identification of racial disparities does not necessarily indicate that police officers have engaged in inequitable practices nor does it mean that they are solely responsible for these disparities as conditions outside of a department’s control such as poverty and crime rates can be contributing factors.

The key findings from the report include:

  • Black Americans comprise less than 9 percent of residents served by BPD but represented 63 percent of people who experienced force.
  • The two types of force most often recorded in BPD use-of-force incidents were “hands-on,” such as physical restraint, and pointing or displaying a firearm. Physical restraint was recorded in 45 percent of incidents, and physical striking was recorded in two percent of incidents.
  • After taking into account crime, poverty, and racial demographics of the area around each BART station, the estimated rate of BPD rider stops was eight times higher for Black riders than for white riders. In addition, rider stops were made more frequently in areas with higher poverty rates.

“We are proud to partner with BPD to inform more equitable practices moving forward, as an important first step in identifying racial biases is improving police-community relations,” said Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, Center for Policing Equity Co-founder and CEO and Professor of African American Studies and Psychology at Yale University. “Systems of public safety have often served as the most efficient tools for racial oppression, and it is important that we recognize this and work to create systems that actually keep people safe. It’s our hope that the BPD can leverage the results of our work together and take necessary action to reimagine public safety and keep their community safer.”

“The foundation of my vision for safety at BART is my personal commitment to progressive policing, a commitment that is shared by the men and women of my department,” said BPD Police Chief Ed Alvarez. “I take the findings of this report seriously and look at them as an initial benchmark against which future progress can be measured.  This is a critical step in our journey to fully ensure BPD is engaging in equitable policing.”

From the findings of the NJD project, CPE created six recommendations for BPD moving forward, including:

  • Updating use of force, stops, and searches data collection by adopting a written policy that requires stop data collection, training and records of stops/use-of-force incidents;
  • Requiring officers to submit brief daily narratives to their supervisors about stops conducted and that supervisors review these reports in a timely manner;
  • Reviewing fare enforcement policies by monitoring locations of enforcement and times of    enforcement to ensure efficient and equitable deployment;
  • Adopting a new policy on drawing or displaying firearm to say that officers may only draw or display their firearms if they reasonably believe that there is a substantial risk of escalation to the point where deadly force may be justified;
  • Further examining the cause of distrust with the community by hosting open dialogues, listening sessions, or administering community surveys and implementing responsive changes; and
  • Collaborating with other officials, such as the BART Office of the Independent Police Auditor and the BART Police Citizen Review Board, to implement the recommendations made in the full report.

To learn more and read the findings from the NJD project, please visit here.

About Center for Policing Equity:

As a research and action organization, Center for Policing Equity (CPE) produces analyses identifying and reducing the causes of racial disparities in law enforcement. Using evidence-based approaches to social justice, we use data to create levers for social, cultural and policy change. Center for Policing Equity also holds a 501(c)3 status.