Report: Police stop minorities more often than whites
But Caucasians were more likely to have contraband
By Patrick Howe
MINNEAPOLIS -- In dozens of communities around the state, black, Hispanic and American Indian drivers were more likely to be stopped and searched by police last year than white drivers, even though they were less likely than whites to be found with anything illegal.
The pattern was discovered in a broad-based racial profiling study released Wednesday by the nonprofit Council on Crime and Justice and the Institute on Race and Poverty, which is associated with the University of Minnesota Law School.
"It is a very significant invasion of civil liberties," said Myron Orfield, executive director of the institute. He said the findings "suggest a powerful pattern of interference with the broad civil rights of Minnesotans that we should consider very seriously."
Under a plan passed in the 2001 legislative session, law enforcement agencies were offered state money to purchase video cameras for police vehicles if they agreed to collect traffic-stop data during 2002.
Officers were asked to determine the race of drivers they stopped in 194,189 total stops.
Sixty-five police agencies volunteered and study authors said they found the same basic pattern in nearly every one.
"It is startling. It is disturbing. But I must say that it only confirms what so many of us who are directly affected have realized all along," said Lester Collins, executive director of the state's Council on Black Minnesotans.
The overall statewide patterns were especially strong for black and Hispanic drivers.
Blacks were stopped three times as often as would be expected based on their percentage of the driving population, searched more than twice as often and discovered with illegal drugs or weapons less than half as often as would be expected.
Hispanics were stopped twice as often, searched 72 percent more often and discovered with contraband less than half as often as would be expected.
If police in the study had stopped drivers of all racial groups at the same rates, about 18,800 fewer blacks, 5,800 fewer Hispanics and about 22,500 more whites would have been stopped by the 65 police agencies, they found.
Particularly troubling, the authors said, is that police were far more likely to find contraband during searches of vehicles driven by whites. In all, 24 percent of searches of whites turned up contraband, compared with 11 percent of searches of blacks and 8 percent of searches of Hispanics.
The study found that American Indians were stopped at a slightly greater rate than whites and contraband was found in a slightly lower percentage of stops, about 20 percent.
The study's authors said while they directly examined traffic-stop data from just a portion of the state's nearly 500 law enforcement jurisdictions -- it did include some large cities such as St. Paul or Duluth -- they believe the findings likely extend statewide.