Our audit of five law enforcement departments throughout the State uncovered the actions of some officers at each department who engaged in biased conduct, either during their on-duty interactions with individuals or online through their social media posts. Although we did not find officers who were members of hate groups, some officers made statements indicating that they support problematic groups. We have included in this report some disturbing content (with some redactions) because we believe that it is important to accurately reflect the nature of the conduct that we observed.

We depend on law enforcement departments and the peace officers they employ to ensure that they exercise their unique authority without regard for individuals’ identity characteristics, such as race, national origin, or mental or physical disability. What we found is that these five departments have not adequately guarded against biased conduct among their officers:

  • They have not used sufficient strategies to achieve representative diversity in hiring.
  • They have not implemented robust community engagement strategies or employee training practices.
  • They have not established sufficient, proactive processes to identify possibly biased behavior.
  • They have not consistently conducted adequate investigations of alleged biased behavior.

Departments’ internal investigations often considered only the most blatant forms of bias. In one such case, a member of the public filed a complaint about an officer’s social media posts. Although the officer’s posts endorsed potentially harmful stereotypes about Black parents and Syrian refugees, the department’s investigation concluded that it was “unable to find any racially derogatory remarks” and that the allegation of prejudice was “clearly false.”

This report makes specific recommendations about steps each department can take to better ensure that Californians receive fair and impartial policing services. We also make several recommendations to the Legislature to better align expectations in state law with best practices for addressing bias in policing, such as by adopting a uniform definition of biased conduct, requiring more frequent and thorough training, and increasing independent oversight.

Respectfully submitted,

MICHAEL S. TILDEN, CPA
Acting California State Auditor

READ THE REPORT: https://www.auditor.ca.gov/reports/2021-105/index.html