Mill Valley is seeking to combat “bias by proxy” — or using race and appearance as a reason to call the police — with an information campaign.

The city plans to mail flyers to 6,000 homes this spring, said Linn Walsh, a city management analyst.

“This is a long-term campaign. We want to get it out in front of people. We have to have conversations about it,” Walsh said. “We want it to be in the community’s dialogue for a while. We want it to be something people talk about and are aware of.”

The program is a part of a larger effort to improve diversity, inclusion and equity in the city following a report, drawn from police data, that indicated Mill Valley community members call the police about Black people at nearly 20 times the rate they do about white people.The campaign seeks to educate Mill Valley residents about their implicit biases about other races, or assumptions and stereotypes that can lead to false judgments.

The flyers convey three recommendations: consider your behavior; consider your assumptions; and consider your reactions. The considerations are appended with additional questions and alternative community service numbers that might be better in certain situations.

The flyer reads: “A person’s race or appearance is NEVER a good reason to call the police.”

The flyer was developed as a joint effort between the city and the advocacy group Mill Valley Force for Racial Equity & Empowerment, or MVFREE.

The city has printed between 300 and 500 flyers so far and distributed them to community stakeholders for distribution at events.

The city is formatting the flyers to fit on a traditional mailer with the same content, Walsh said.

Officials hope to distribute them this spring. The flyers are also available as a digital download on the city website.

According to the Racial and Identity Profiling Act, law enforcement agencies in the state must collect specific data regarding detentions and searches. The Mill Valley Police Department began collecting the data on June 1, 2021 — six months before the state-mandated start time — and released a report on its findings in October 2022.

The city reported 2,485 stops since June 2021. White people account for about 70% of the stops and the majority of violations and criminal activity.

According to the data, Mill Valley community members call the police about Black people at nearly 20 times the rate they do about White people.

Mill Valley’s population of approximately 14,100 includes about 81.6% White residents, 1% Black residents, 6% Latino residents and 6% Asian residents, according to 2020 census data.

The report indicated Black people are stopped at 6.5 times the rate of White people and Latino people are stopped at 3.2 times the rate of White people.

Celimene Pastor, a member of MVFREE, said that in most of the cases of calls against people of color, the police find no cause for citation or arrest.

“The data was heartbreaking, but it’s something that was eye-opening,” she said. “We really do have a problem. We really do need something to do about it.”

She said the mailers are a tactical alternative to catch the attention of residents.

“You think about how many emails you get per day. If you sent it by email it could be easily lost in the mix,” she said. “Sending it by mail shows how serious the city is.”

Mill Valley police Chief Rick Navarro said the police department is continuing work to train officers on implicit bias, principled policing and racial diversity. He said an examination of the available data would assist the department in providing service to the community.

“We are really encouraged by the response we have received so far on the bias by proxy education campaign,” Navarro said. “Community members are very receptive to the idea.”