San Jose professor joins state advisory board on racial profiling
SJSU Human Rights Institute Director William Armaline and other speakers at a June 23 news conference. He spoke about the Silicon Valley Pain Index, an annual report focusing on racial discrimination and income inequality in the region. Photo by Vicente Vera.

A San Jose State University professor is joining a broader effort to help research and combat racial profiling in California.

Earlier this month, Sen. Toni Atkins of San Diego appointed William Armaline, professor of sociology and founding director of the school’s Human Rights Institute, to California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board. Armaline is known for his work on police reform, incarceration, inequality and anti-racist action, among his many other human rights-related interests.

“Racial and identity profiling and discrimination has no place on our streets or in our social justice system,” said Atkins in a written statement. “I am confident Dr. William Armaline will make a tremendously productive addition to the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board’s important work to improve relations between communities and law enforcement.”

The board formed in 2015 through the Racial and Identity Profiling Act. The bill requires law enforcement agencies across the state to collect and report detailed data on complaints that allege racial or identity profiling. When practiced by law enforcement, criminal profiling is “the reliance on a group of characteristics they believe to be associated with crime,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sen. Dave Cortese nominated Armaline for the appointment.

Armaline told San José Spotlight that his position on the board presents an important opportunity to learn and represent the university. The board’s main task is to research and produce reports on profiling, and recommend best practices to help law enforcement agencies eliminate harmful behaviors and improve relationships with their communities.

“My approach right now is to go in with a mindset to learn and to see how the (board) works,” Armaline said. “And explore specific opportunities for reform, given the context of the current AG’s office and the modern political environment.”

The board operates under state Attorney General Rob Bonta. Armaline said he looks forward to this arrangement because of Bonta’s past work on criminal justice in the state Assembly. Bonta will also help oversee a brand new law, which he helped co-author, that requires investigations into all police shootings that kill unarmed civilians.

“Under the current attorney general’s leadership, I think bodies like the (advisory) board have an opportunity to do some really interesting work,” Armaline said.

In May, Bonta announced the creation of a new Racial Justice Bureau in the state’s Department of Justice. Armaline considers this another promising sign for the advisory board.

“The other thing is, honestly, we have been working hard at the (Human Rights Institute) at becoming better ambassadors for SJSU,” Armaline said, “and the university’s dedicated role, to not just directly serving our communities, but in really having a voice in policy at the local and state level.”

The university and the institute, Armaline said, have a responsibility to serve the working people in California, and his appointment to the board plays a part in meeting that goal.

Colleague Walt Jacobs, dean of SJSU’s College of Social Sciences, said this is Armaline’s area of expertise.

“The Human Rights Institute… is all about (taking) these really hard, messy social problems and working with community organizations and policy makers to use human rights scholarship to make informed policy,” Jacobs said.

Not only is Armaline a scholar, Jacobs added, he’s an integral part of his local community. Armaline is also a member of the NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley and the Santa Clara County Hate Crimes Task Force, among other advocacy organizations.

“Those community connections are important… So those voices are going to be heard,” Jacobs said. “(Armaline) is a very passionate advocate, he’s not going to be your very reserved, quiet, typical researcher that lets the research speak for itself. He’s going to make sure you understand… and he’s a tireless advocate too. He’s willing to roll up his sleeves and do the dirty work.”

Copies of all of the advisory board’s full reports and details about the group’s work can be found here.

Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] or follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

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