On the last day of May, the police accountability advocacy group Campaign Zero released a scorecard grading California’s 100 largest police departments. Using data from 2016 and 2017, the organization scored the departments on a range of factors to assess their accountability and willingness to discriminate and use violence.
“Campaign Zero obtained data from state and local agencies to evaluate California’s 100 largest municipal police departments and converted each evaluation (represented by a “score” from 0-100) into an easy-to-understand letter grade,” states the report. “Using this methodology, a police department received a higher grade if it made fewer arrests for low level offenses, used less force during arrest, had fewer homicides unsolved, did not have racial disparities in arrests and use of force, and upheld civilian complaints of police misconduct more often than other police departments in the state.”
As you can see from the results, this test wasn’t graded on a curve. Of the 100 departments tested, just one–Carlsbad–received an excellent grade (though it was an A-). In fact, the testing was so rigorous that only nine departments received passing grades. The remaining 91 departments scored a D or F grade. The only Orange County department to get a passing grade was Garden Grove, with a B (84 percent).
These findings are not surprising.
“The police killed more people last year than the year before, racial disparities in outcomes such as arrests and deadly force persist, and the criminal justice system is not more likely to hold police accountable,” states the Campaign Zero study. “These findings should prompt further investigations and interventions targeting low-performing police departments within the state, not only from local policymakers but also potentially from the California Attorney General, who has the power to initiate pattern and practice investigations into local police agencies.”
Here are some of the results for the dozen Orange County departments included in the Police Scorecard:
GARDEN GROVE: B
“Garden Grove was 1 of only 15 departments in our analysis that did not use deadly force from 2016-17,” states the report. The department also scored high for not using a lot of less-lethal force, and for ruling 22 percent of complaints in favor of the civilian who filed it. The department (like most in California) does give officers what Campaign Zero considers an unfair access to information, limits oversight and erases misconduct records.
Tustin had one deadly force incident in 2016-2017, which happened without police first trying to use less-than-deadly force (which would seem to be in contravention of a policy the department adopted). According to the data, black and Latino people are also disproportionately arrested. Twenty-six percent of complaints were resolved in favor of the civilian.
COSTA MESA: D+
No deadly force incidents during 2016-2017, but the department does have a very high rate of arresting people for low level offices (30.6 per 1,000 people). And just one in 12 complaints were resolved in favor of the civilian.
One deadly force incident, disproportionate arrests of black and Latino people, four unsolved homicides, and just 10 percent of complaints found in favor of the civilian.
Irvine, Buena Park, Orange, Huntington Beach, Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Newport Beach all received F grades. The reasons were what you’d expect: racial disparities in arrests, deadly force, high rejection of citizen complaints, etc.
You can read the entire scorecard here.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.