An independent inquiry into an on-campus incident in January determined that Stanford Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers acted reasonably and showed no signs of “bias-based policing” during a stop in which they pulled over a Black motorist and unholstered their weapons.

The report also identified “concerns with critical thinking, judgment, and communication” in how deputies conducted the stop. In response to the findings, DPS in consultation with the university Community Board on Public Safety will provide training to address those concerns.

Read a summary of the review and the full report of the independent review.

The inquiry focused on an incident the evening of Jan. 28, when DPS officers initially contacted the motorist related to possible package thefts, and later stopped a car due to an outstanding arrest warrant for its owner.

During the incident, two deputies unholstered their guns and a third pointed his gun at the occupied car. The driver was subsequently handcuffed and placed in a patrol car. Deputies ultimately determined he did not own the car, found “no probable cause for an arrest of property theft,” cited him for a minor infraction (possession of marijuana in an unsealed container in the compartment of a moving vehicle), and released him.

In addition to the immediate review by DPS and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which is standard practice, the university and county engaged The Riseling Group, an outside consultant that works with universities and law enforcement, to conduct the independent review.

The review determined that police codes associated with emergency situations used in radio traffic between dispatchers and deputies indicated “a high-risk traffic stop” with a need for additional assistance.

“The deputies who withdrew their firearms believed the traffic stop to be of a ‘high-risk’ situation [and] their actions were reasonable and within policy,” the incident review said. “However, TRG does not believe the traffic stop should have been approached as high risk.”

Other key findings include:

  • The initial contact regarding the suspicion of theft and the pullover complied with applicable training standards: Deputies had reasonable suspicion for a lawful pullover and detention and probable cause for a lawful arrest.
  • The traffic stop should not have been approached as “high risk,” but because police radio communications indicated it was, the actions by deputies who withdrew their firearms were reasonable and within policy.
  • No bias-based policing was found.
  • Actions by some deputies “potentially fall outside” DPS core values and the actions of one deputy “potentially fall outside” performance expectations.
  • Additional training is recommended in these areas: critical thinking and decision making, use of force process, traffic stop tactics, communication protocols, de-escalation techniques, and adherence to DPS core values.

“Everyone at Stanford should feel safe, valued, and respected, and this report highlights areas where additional training will help ensure that DPS actions are consistent with that goal,” said Laura Wilson, the university’s director of public safety. “We remain committed to deepening our professional skills and knowledge, and to practicing the principles of fairness, integrity, and respect.”

“We regret that this incident escalated in the way that it did, and we acknowledge the potential negative impact on the member of our community who was directly affected, as well as on other community members,” said Patrick Dunkley, vice provost for institutional equity, access, and community. “I am encouraged by the level of cooperation from DPS and the county to address this issue. The best way to prevent a recurrence of incidents like this is to learn from them. I am confident the additional training DPS will conduct will move our campus in a positive direction. I also hope that the level of transparency demonstrated by the university will help to establish a heightened level trust for our community.”