A new report indicates that African American people are more than eight times more likely to be arrested than white people in San Mateo County. The report, from the Public Policy Institute of California, does not spell out the cause for the disparity, but it does find some intriguing correlations.
The report, titled “Key Factors in Arrest Trends and Differences in California’s Counties,” was released last week. San Mateo County was second only to San Francisco County among the California counties with more than 25,000 residents in terms of the disparity in arrest rates for African-Americans and white people. Overall, African-Americans are three times more likely than whites to be arrested in California.
The disparity between Latinos and whites is much less pronounced, 1.1 Latino arrested for every white arrestee statewide, and was not the focus of the report.
San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said on Monday that he was confident that race played no role in the arrests his deputies make. Nevertheless, he said Sheriff’s Office employees would receive training this year in “implicit bias” to combat the way stereotypes might lead to unfair police action in the field.
“To say we are a color-blind society is not true,” he said. “I don’t think we have a problem, but many agencies are doing it and I felt it was timely.”
The report from the nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank notes higher disparity in the arrest rates between whites and people of color typically occur in the most affluent and well-educated counties. The reasons behind that correlation are murky.
Bolanos said it could be that there are greater opportunities for property crime in more affluent communities like those in San Mateo County.
“People will come to your county to commit crime,” he said. Bolanos noted the Sept. 18 arrest of three African American women from Oakland, who are accused of felony auto burglary after allegedly stealing a car near Woodside. “Clearly, they are not from the county.”
Bolanos acknowledged that sometimes citizens complain on the basis of race. He says that has always been the case and that law enforcement combats those false impressions.