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Suhr: Misclassifying Asian, Latino arrestees is 'unacceptable'

SF Police Captain Greg Suhr
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SF Police Captain Greg Suhr

SF Police Chief Greg Suhr

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr acknowledged Wednesday his department has routinely underreported the arrests of Latinos and Asians, the two largest minority groups in the city.

The department has been classifying Latino arrestees as "white" and Asian arrestees as "Chinese" for at least a decade, a Bay Citizen investigation found. The misclassifications have inflated the department's arrest rate for whites and heightened civil rights groups' concerns about racial profiling.

At Wednesday's police commission meeting, Suhr blamed the misclassifications on a computer system built in 1972 that only allows officers to classify individuals as white, black, Chinese and other.

"Obviously that is unacceptable," Suhr said.

He said officials would meet with chief technology officer Susan Giffin to discuss the issue, but did not say how it would be resolved. He added that the department has many problems with outdated technology.

"I'm absolutely not satisfied that we are where we should be," he said. "Again, I beg your indulgence. We're a department that just got on email last year, onto the web last July."

The California Department of Justice and the FBI use the police department's statistics in annual reports on crime in the state. Although the department could calculate the numbers manually, officers have used the antiquated computer system to generate the reports for at least a decade, when the Department of Justice began publishing the data online.

Commissioners asked Suhr to present his plans for addressing the problem at its Sept. 5 meeting. Commissioner Angela Chan, an attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, said she had received many concerned inquiries about the incorrect statistics.

Suhr promised he would provide details on his plan to update the department's technology.

"We will present a comprehensive plan on where we are, and how fast, and possibly a date, as to when the road map will take us to where we need to be," he said.

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