Minorities Fare Worse In Traffic Stops

AP, April 30, 2007

Black, Hispanic and white drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested, a federal study found.

Police were much more likely to threaten or use force against blacks and Hispanics than against whites in any encounter, whether at a traffic stop or elsewhere, according to the Justice Department.

The study, released Sunday by the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, covered police contacts with the public during 2005 and was based on interviews by the Census Bureau with nearly 64,000 people age 16 or over.

“The numbers are very consistent” with those found in a similar study of police-public contacts in 2002, bureau statistician Matthew R. Durose, the report’s co-author, said in an interview. “There’s some stability in the findings over these three years.”

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“This report shows there are still disturbing disparities in terms of what happens to people of color after the stop,” said Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s racial justice project. He also said better reporting is needed.

Like the 2002 report, this one contained a warning that the racial disparities uncovered “do not constitute proof that police treat people differently along demographic lines” because the differences could be explained by circumstances not analyzed by the survey. The 2002 report said such circumstances might include driver conduct or whether drugs were in plain view.

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Black, Hispanic and white motorists were equally likely to be pulled over by policebetween 8 percent and 9 percent of each group. The slight decline in blacks pulled overfrom 9.2 percent in 2002 to 8.1 percent in 2005was not statistically significant, Durose said, and could be the result of random differences.

The racial disparities showed up after that point:

* Blacks (9.5 percent) and Hispanics (8.8 percent) were much more likely to be searched than whites (3.6 percent). There were slight but statistically insignificant declines compared with the 2002 report in the percentages of blacks and Hispanics searched.

* Blacks (4.5 percent) were more than twice as likely as whites (2.1 percent) to be arrested. Hispanic drivers were arrested 3.1 percent of the time.

Among all police-public contacts, force was used 1.6 percent of the time. But blacks (4.4 percent) and Hispanics (2.3 percent) were more likely than whites (1.2 percent) to be subjected to force or the threat of force by police officers.

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