Central California statistics confirm black people arrested at higher rate than white people

An analysis of FBI and census data shows black people make up about 7% of Fresno's population and 19% of the arrests.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Across the country, police statistics bear out one of the biggest complaints of Black Lives Matter protests: Police arrest black people at much higher rates.

"To be in a black body is to be condemned already," said Marcel Woodruff of Faith in the Valley.

Action News dug into FBI and census data to see if the discrepancy holds true in the Valley and found it does, so we looked for possible solutions with community leaders.

Public outrage simmered when an Action News reporter uncovered video of a Fresno police officer punching 17-year-old London Wallace, who had nothing to do with the gang operation that brought officers to a central Fresno apartment complex.

Officers arrested Wallace for resisting arrest during the January 2019 incident, but prosecutors dropped the charges.

RELATED: Teen sues Fresno PD using body cam video of officer punching him multiple times

Community leaders say what happened to Wallace is just the price he paid for being black.

"It feels like you're being hunted," Woodruff said. "And every contact, you know that your body is at risk. There's always that chance or that likelihood that you won't go home, that your body's going to be taken away and it's through what happened to George Floyd or just through trumped up charges. You always know that's a risk."

Woodruff mentors black teens through Faith in the Valley and other programs.

He says they're stigmatized and overpoliced, so they have more police contact and more opportunities for arrest.

An ABC News analysis of FBI and census data shows black people make up about 7% of Fresno's population and 19% of the arrests.

They're about twice as likely as whites to get arrested in Fresno.

Woodruff says a lot of black kids learn to internalize the discrepancy from a young age.

"It creates trauma," he said. "It creates stress. And it creates a lot of the other injustices we see. Kids struggle in school and jobs and in other places because you internalize this narrative that's wrong that says you're the villain."

Our analysis shows police in at least 500 different local departments across the United States - including San Francisco and George Floyd's Minneapolis - arrested black people at rates at least five times higher than white people between 2016 and 2018.

Police across the Valley arrested black people at higher rates than their population percentage, with rare exceptions.

In Selma, they're more than ten times as likely as whites to be arrested. In Coalinga, they're one-third as likely to be arrested.

Faith in the Valley's Aaron Foster says the problem is how some police officers view African Americans as suspects.

The solution is erasing the inherent bias by just making sure police understand they're human.

"We train the trainers," he said. "We get into the institutions and we treat people like human beings."

RELATED: Police arrest black Americans more frequently than white people, ABC News investigation reveals
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From June 2020: An ABC News investigation in partnership with ABC Owned Television Stations revealed that in 800 jurisdictions, black people were arrested at a rate five times higher than white people in 2018.

None of the law enforcement agencies we contacted for this story agreed to an interview, but Foster emphasized that slogans like "ACAB" are not true.

Not all cops are bad, just a few rogues who need to find a different line of work.

"For me to sit and demonize all police officers would be an injustice to the ones who have humanely treated me: Mark Salazar (a deputy chief), (Capt.) Joey (Alvarez) from southwest, Capt. (Phil) Cooley and too many others to mention."

Foster and Woodruff are pushing police to see them as equal partners in humanity.

They say that only when people change how they think about black people and how they treat black people, does this becomes a united America.
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