The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office polices the 5 Freeway. There are four white deputies that regular patrol the area. An investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that 69% of the stops made by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office were Latinx individuals. Of the drivers who were Latinx, deputies searched 67% of the vehicles they stopped.
As a comparison the California Highway Patrol patrols the same stretch of road. They stop drastically more individuals than the Sheriff’s Office does but of those stopped only 40% are Hispanic. And of the Hispanics pulled over CHiP only searches 3% of the vehicles. Why is there such a difference in the numbers? Why do the L.A. County deputies insist they are not profiling when the disparity says otherwise?
If you read the article by the Los Angeles Times, and I highly recommend you do, you may start seeing the reason. Unacknowledged prejudices play a large part. These deputies insist that they are not profiling but listen to the things they have decided as suspicious. A man driving a car registered to a woman. A car recently registered. A teddy bear or suitcases become props in their minds. Acting in a manner that they consider to be suspicious. Not making eye contact. None of these things are valid reasons to pull over someone or to search their car. Acting suspicious is so vague that it can be anything the deputies decide it is.
These deputies have decided they are experts at reading people. That’s ironic since they can’t even read themselves. They don’t see that the gut feeling they think they are getting is really their prejudice. If you have to move away from legitimate legal reasons to pull someone over and instead depend on your suspicions then it’s not superior knowledge that is driving you. It’s bigotry.