Police chiefs from small Massachusetts towns say a study of racial profiling does not accurately reflect the effects of heavily traveled state highways. They fear that it will lead to unfairness when Attorney General Thomas Reilly and Public Safety Secretary Edward Flynn enforce a state mandate to reduce racial profiling in traffic stops, citations, and searches, reports the Boston Globe.
The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association notes that a recent Northeastern University Institute on Race and Justice study of racial profiling showed wide gaps in the stops of white and nonwhite drivers in some towns. Shrewsbury Police Chief A. Wayne Sampson also complained about findings that Shrewsbury issued 21.8 percent of tickets to minorities while having a nonwhite driving population of only 11 percent. He said the report failed to factor in that Shrewsbury is the gateway to Worcester, with a nonwhite population of 26 percent. “When you look at the true driving population, there can be big disparities from community to community,” Sampson said. “If you look at any small community around a big city, there could be a lot that have this same problem that Shrewsbury had.”
A final draft of Northeastern’s report is due March 31. The results are intended to help Flynn and Reilly decide how to tackle the practice of profiling. On the basis of the findings, Flynn can order communities to collect more specific statistics for one year on traffic stops, citations, and searches.
John Collins, attorney for the chiefs’ group, faulted Northeastern for working only with computer models to produce its findings. “How in the world can you do this program without ever coming out and looking at what happens on the street?” he asked.