San Diego Law Enforcement’s “Obscene” Targeting of POC With Mental Illness

7 months

The sheriff deputies of San Diego County and San Diego cops have disproportionately policed and used force against people of color and disabled people—and especially against folks who share both identities, a new report finds.

“We analyzed data recently made available in [California] on every stop, search, arrest and use of force by police,” tweeted Samuel Sinyangwe, a data scientist and co-founder of Campaign ZERO, the organization that produced the Police Scorecard report for San Diego Sheriffs Department (SDSD), as well as the city’s police force. “This is what policing looks like in San Diego over a one-year period”—and he described it as “obscene.”

Latinx people with disabilities were most likely to be searched by the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) when stopped, but were least likely to possess illegal items. SDSD deputies were 112 percent more likely to search people with mental disabilities during a stop, but were 47 percent less likely to find illegal items on them than people perceived not to have a disability. The report defines mental disabilities as “any Disability related to hyperactivity or impulsive behavior, Mental health condition, Intellectual or developmental disability including dementia, Speech impairment or limited use of language.”

“This suggests a pattern of biased policing by SDSD of people with disabilities—especially those perceived to have mental disabilities,” stated the report.

Disabled people of all demographics were disproportionately subject to police violence. Almost one third of all people subjected to SDSD use-of-force had “mental health issues or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” the report described. Out of a total of 95 deadly force incidents, 13 of the victims had mental disabilities.

“Something has to change,” tweeted Sinyangwe. “If you live in San Diego, demand your city council change the police [department’s] policies and invest in non-police based alternatives because this ain’t it.”

Photograph of a San Diego Police Department vehicle; by Tomás Del Coro via Wikimedia Commons

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