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Groups Work to End Racial Profiling in San Diego


Attorneys in San Diego – including the bar associations for African Americans and Latinos – are working with the city’s new police chief to reduce racial profiling in the Southern California city. 

On Aug. 14, they and San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman released public service announcements, which include videos in English and Spanish, so residents can have a better understanding of their rights and what to do should they suspect racial profiling has occurred, the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association and the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association said.

The effort comes after stories in Voice of San Diego and other news outlets have raised questions about actions by police officers that involve people of color, as well as the department collecting data to determine whether racial profiling patterns exist.

“I will not tolerate any instances of racial profiling or even discourteous treatment to anyone in our community,” Zimmerman, who became chief in March, said in a statement. “It should not matter where you live or who you are to feel safe. You should feel safe no matter who you are or where you live.”

A general definition of racial profiling is the use of race or ethnicity to suspect a person of committing an offense.

The public service effort also is a product of attorneys having a good working relationship with the San Diego Police  Department and the desire to make sure all community members know how to report suspected racial profiling, Omar Passons, Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association president, said in a statement.

“We are following a long tradition of legal professionals using our roles in the community to help advocate for all members of our community,” he said.

The San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association also has long worked with residents, especially in the Latino community, to ensure that they are aware of legal rights.

“Many members of our communities are suspicious of the police and don’t feel anything will happen if they do report questionable treatment,” Renee Galente, the group’s president, said.

“This video…will help let everyone in our community know how to address these issues.”

Galente offered general suggestions about what to do should you be involved with a possible case of racial profiling.

1. Stay calm and remain polite. Avoid any type of escalation.

2. Get information about the police officer or employee, including name and badge and car number.

3. Ask that a supervisor come to the scene.

4. Record what is possible using a cell phone, camera or written notes, either during or right after the incident.

5. If there was physical violence or something that might be particularly out of the ordinary, contact an attorney.

Your Turn: What is the relationship with police officers like in your community? What are your thoughts about this outreach effort?

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