SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — New data from Bay Area Rapid Transit police shows officers are issuing a disproportionate amount of citations over so-called “quality of life” issues to African American passengers.

While black BART riders make up 12 percent of the system’s ridership, in the last two years they received approximately half of the quality of life citations for offenses such as fare evasion, loud music, panhandling, smoking and other minor offenses, according to the data released Friday.

The vast majority of the quality of life citations involve fare evasion, and black passengers received 52 and 50 percent of the approximately 28,000 fare evasion tickets issued in 2018 and 2019, respectively. By contrast, white people make up 44 percent of BART riders and received 14 percent of the fare evasion citations in both 2018 and 2019.

Citations for code of conduct – such as aggressive panhandling, eating, smoking – and disruptive behavior such as playing loud music, lewd conduct or disturbing the peace – were a small percentage of the citations issued but blacks similarly accounted for approximately half of the citations issued.

In a statement, BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez said, “I have made it a priority that we continue to build a culture of progressive and equitable policing. We must examine these findings and better understand why they exist.”

BART Director Janice Li told the Bay Area News Group the disparity in tickets being issued to black passengers was concerning and needed to be explored further.

“We have to understand why, and we have to end those disparities,” Li told the Bay Area News Group. “I’m ready and willing to work with the chief to better understand this.”

In December, BART’s Office of the Independent Police Auditor announced it was looking into the disparity of African Americans being issued tickets during the transit agency’s crackdown on fare evaders, with 46 percent of the citations issued by fare inspectors given to black passengers from July 2018 through July 2019.

 

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