Police in California conducted more searches of black teens than searches of white teens in 2021. This was implemented upon vehicle, and pedestrian stops that year, as detailed in a recent state report. 

As attention has been drawn to police brutality and racial injustice across the country, California has taken several steps to address these issues, including establishing a Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board and requiring it to produce an annual report. This law went into effect in 2018. 

Officer traffic and pedestrian stops made by 58 police departments in 2021 are detailed in the board’s report. This information includes officers’ perceptions of the race, ethnicity, gender and disability status of people they stop to help the state better recognize and assess prejudices in policing.


The 58 agencies stopped more than 3.1 million cars and pedestrians in 2021, which includes the 23 largest departments in the state. Each of California’s police departments must turn in their statistics by April. 

Even if it differs from how the person identifies, the data includes how officers perceive a person’s race or gender because discrimination is motivated by the officer’s perception. To change policies and attempt to lessen racial disparities and bias in policing, the board’s work notifies agencies, the state’s police office training board and state legislators.


According to the report, more than 42% of the 3.1 million stops made by those agencies in 2021 involved a person who was initially thought to be Hispanic or Latino. The majority (over 30%) were assumed to be white, while the minority (15%) were assumed to be Black. 

Census projections for 2021 indicate that while whites made up roughly 35% of Californians, Blacks and other people of African descent made up only 6.5% of the state. In that year, roughly 40% of the residents of the state identified as Hispanic or Latino. 


“The data show that racial and identity disparities persist year after year. The Board remains committed to analyzing and highlighting these disparities to compel evidence-driven strategies for reforming policing and eliminating racial and identity profiling in California,” the report read. 

At a higher rate than any other combination of perceived race or ethnicity and age group, police handcuffed, searched, or detained people they believed to be Black youths between the ages of 15 and 17 during stops either in a patrol car or curbside.

Furthermore, the report found that law enforcement searched people who were perceived to be Black at a rate 2.2 times higher than the rate at which they searched people who were perceived to be white. The likelihood that police would use force on someone they assumed was Black was significantly higher than that of someone they perceived as white. 


Furthermore, the report showed that more often than with other racial or ethnic groups, law enforcement officials reported taking no action following stops of people they believed to be Black, suggesting that those stopped Black individuals were not involved in criminal behavior.


The number of stops analyzed by this report is 246,000, higher than the number of stops analyzed by the 2020 report because it includes data from 40 more agencies. Thirteen data collectors decreased their 2021 visit count compared to the 18 that took part in both years. The report suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role in those numbers. 

Earlier board reports had also shown that law enforcement engaged in racial and identity profiling during traffic stops, and these findings from 2021 were consistent with those reports.