David Heinzmann, Chicago Tribune, June 17
Of the 244,309 drivers Chicago police pulled over in 2004, African-Americans were stopped at a rate much higher than their percentage of the population, according to a state-mandated study intended to address racial profiling in Illinois.
The Illinois Department of Transportation’s Traffic Stop Statistical Study showed that the rate of traffic stops for African-American motorists was 27 percent higher than their percentage of the population. Overall, minorities were pulled over at a rate 15 percent higher than their share of the population, according to the study. Hispanics were stopped at a rate proportionate to their population.
Despite the troubling disparity, Chicago Police Supt. Philip J. Cline said Friday he does not believe the difference is the result of racial profiling. Aggressive policing against street gangs — which are rooted in minority areas — could be driving the disparity, he said.
“More officers are in target areas taking more action,” Cline said. Nonetheless, he said the department is reviewing its training and operations policies. The 2004 study is the first year of a four-year review.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who sponsored the law when he was a state senator representing the South Side, said Friday that the study shows racial profiling is more than a perception.
“It is obvious from today’s release by the city that there is, in fact, a problem. If you are black, you have a greater chance of being stopped in the City of Chicago and a significantly greater chance of having your car searched — than if you are white,” Obama said in a written statement.
In 2004, 76 people filed complaints of racial profiling with the department’s Office of Professional Standards, according to police records. Of those cases, just one case was sustained — meaning the probe showed the officer did pull over the person solely because of their race. The remaining were either dismissed as false or inconclusive.