Police in Menlo Park stopped a disproportionate number of Hispanic or Latino people last year, according to data released by the city's police department and presented at a March 28 Menlo Park City Council meeting.
Of people stopped by police, 39.9% were perceived as Hispanic or Latino, according to the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) data. According to the 2020 census, Hispanic or Latino people only make up 17.6% of the population of Menlo Park. Only 28.1% of people stopped were perceived as white, though they make up 62.2% of Menlo Park residents.
Police Chief David Norris said that of 27,000 stops made in the past five years, 83% were not residents of Menlo Park. He said that within 1-3 percentage points, the race and ethnicity breakdown of Menlo Park’s stops are reflective of the 3.1 million stops reported in 2021 from all of California.
Council member Maria Doerr said she appreciated the report and the police department's transparency, but flagged that law enforcement agencies across the nine-county Bay Area are disproportionately conducting traffic stops on Latinos. According to the census, 24% of San Mateo County's population identifies as Hispanic or Latino.
"I think that there's so much more we can do, and I know that you are thinking deeply about how these issues are showing up in our policing," Doerr said. "I appreciate the accountability that you're building with the community as a whole, and I'm excited for those continued conversations."
Menlo Park's Re-Imagining Public Safety Ad Hoc Subcommittee also reported about progress, including transparency through RIPA data, research of alternative response strategies for mental health crisis response and make it easier to track the review, investigation and disposition of complaints against department personnel.
"Anything like (this data) is a place for us to dig in with our curiosity, and try and see if there are some lessons learned," Norris said. "We're certainly going to be looking into that, and seeing if there (is) … something about that data that will inform how we police."
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