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Traffic stop data shows troubling racial pattern. – Courant.com (Participation)

March 6, 2012

Ticketing Disparities Reveal Specter Of Racism

Traffic Stops: Study shows minorities hit with more traffic violations

 

The specter of racism in the criminal justice system won’t go away, whether it involves the number of blacks and Hispanics in prison or, it turns out, who gets ticketed for a broken taillight.

An analysis by The Courant’s Matthew Kauffman of more than 100,000 traffic stops by dozens of local police departments in 2011 found that black and Hispanic drivers are significantly more likely to receive a ticket or a court date than white drivers stopped for the same offense.

Hispanics Most Ticketed

The disparity was most striking among Hispanic motorists, who were more likely than both whites and blacks to be ticketed in each of 13 categories of violations — such as speeding, cellphone violations, running stop signs and improper license-plate display — for which there were at least 1,000 stops. Black drivers fared worse than whites in 10 of the 13 categories.

Mr. Kauffman reported that blacks and Hispanics fared especially poorly when stopped for equipment-related violations. Among nearly 4,000 stops related to the display or use of license plates, 13 percent of white motorists left with a citation, compared with 27 percent of black drivers and 36 percent of Hispanics. In more than 2,600 stops involving improper taillights, black motorists were twice as likely, and Hispanics nearly four times as likely, to be ticketed than white drivers.

The traffic reports do not include such information as the circumstances of the stop, the behavior and driving history of the motorist or the race of the officer, so by themselves don’t explicitly prove the widespread existence of racial profiling or racist policing. But the trend they disclose certainly is troubling.

Everyone has dropped the ball on stopping racial profiling; has tried to wish the problem away. Not only has it not gone away, we now see another dimension to it. It’s not just who police stop, it’s what then happens to them afterward.

The state’s anti-racial-profiling law was passed in 1999, following incidents such as the Avon Police Department’s regularly stopping African Americans on their way to a swimming area in Litchfield County in the early 1990s. The law bans racial profiling and requires police departments to submit racial data on each traffic stop so that the stops can be analyzed.

Police Lax In Reporting Data

The information has not exactly flowed in. Fewer than half of the state’s police departments have been submitting the data, and those that have been complying with the reporting law haven’t all been using the same format. If the data are coming from more conscientious departments, however, the problem may be worse than it appears.

The reports that have been submitted haven’t been analyzed since 2001, the year after the law went into effect, when it was the chief state’s attorney’s responsibility. In 2003, it was shifted to the legislature’s African American Affairs Commission, which had neither the staff nor the budget to analyze the data, according to the commission’s director.

In short, the problem was conveniently parked out of sight and out of mind. Except that it didn’t go away. This became clear when the U.S. Department of Justicerecently issued a scathing report accusing the East Haven Police Department of “systematically discriminating against Latinos” and later arrested local four officers on related charges.

Mr. Kauffman’s report strongly suggests that East Haven isn’t the only haven for racism. The article should cause a serious statewide discussion of the issue and lead to a meaningful and thorough reporting system. It should inspire local departments to follow the example of Milford Police Chief Keith Mello, who plans to do an individual analysis of each ticket to see whether race played a role in its issuance.

Impartial law enforcement is a goal that needs constant attention.

via Traffic stop data shows troubling racial pattern. – Courant.com.

via Traffic stop data shows troubling racial pattern. – Courant.com.

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From → Participation

One Comment
  1. Kyla Chappell permalink

    Along with many other articles and statistics, this one, too, does not surprise me. It just makes me wonder when this will ever stop? If police departments aren’t even following laws regarding reporting stops then how will it ever be analyzed and try to be improved? It’s frustrating to see racial profiling continue to exist in our world today, because everyone wants to claim that racism is over, but taking a look at this example of police stops, it clearly is NOT.

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