Culver City Police Offer Annual RIPA Report at Community Meeting

At the Mike Balkman Council Chambers at City Hall, the crowd was scant but very focused. The April 4, 2024 community meeting offered by the Culver City Police Department to review the Racial Identity Profiling Act data for the year 2023 took close to two hours, and included opportunities to ask questions. 

Introduced by Chief Jason Sims, the meeting was led by Dr. Paul Conor, a specialist in organizational psychology who consulted on the presentation.

Beginning with the legal definition of RIPA, Conor explained that the California law mandates all state and local law enforcement agencies to collect and report detailed information about every person detained and/or searched by police.

The specifics on certain details are still in play; the requirement to identify by gender has been “stayed by the California Supreme Court; we are not currently required to collect that data, and once the court rules on that question we will add it in, or leave it off permanently.”

What is currently collected is the “perceived ethnicity” of people who are detained by the police. “Detained means the police have stopped you and you are not free to go.” Of the detentions in the report, 19% were community generated calls for service, and 81% were police initiated stops. The data adds up to 6,794  police initiated detentions. 

The data collected were broken into three categories – Culver City residents, residents of cities that border Culver City, and commuters. CCPD Sargent Edward Baskaron noted “92% of the people we pull over are not Culver City residents.” 

The traffic through the city – as evidenced by the data from the license plate readers and red light cameras – is daunting. “We see 17 million license plates per month, that’s the total of reads we get- and only 1.6 million of those are unique reads, meaning we only see that plate once.” With automated license plate readers at intersections through out the city, that’s a considerable amount of data. According to that information, approximately 300,000 drivers commute through Culver City daily. 

While the key term “perceived” is a part of the law, the detaining officer’s perception of the ethnicity of the person being stopped is what goes in the record. “If they have a Drivers License, that helps, but if they don’t we have to figure that out.” Of those detained, 31% were noted as Black, and 37% as Hispanic. People classified by age showed that 53% of those detained were between the age of 26 and 40, and 74% were identified as male. 

Of the people running red lights cameras, 47% of those were both white and Culver City residents. 

“My thoughts as a data scientist,” Connor added, “is on the importance of collecting good data. I work with 52 other [police] departments in California, and this is the only agency I’m aware of that puts this much effort into analyzing the data. We also need to look at things that might be anomalous, and ask what we can do to improve.” 

Since 2018, when the department shifted away from “low level mechanical violations – broken tail light kind of things – to focus more on hazardous moving violations, like speeding,” there has been a 60% drop in traffic stops. 

Sims noted that this was only the second year that the department had produced a RIPA report, and that adding in the data from the red light cameras, as well as adding zip codes to detention stops, were both enhancements that helped to flesh out the numbers. He offered that “nothing in this is an exact science; the idea of adding zip codes is new, and if it’s not valuable, maybe we don’t [use that information] next year.” 

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang