In a campaign against racial profiling of drivers, police officers in Boston and Lowell, Ma., will work with state authorities to track all traffic stops, and not just those that result in citations or written warnings. The plan was announced yesterday by state Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, reports the Boston Globe.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that to justify a stop, police must show they had “reasonable, articulable suspicion” to pull the car over. Studies have found that blacks are more likely than whites to be stopped and given a ticket rather than a written warning.
This week, Massachusetts officials plan to issue a study, conducted with Northeastern University, that looks at the race of motorists pulled over in all Massachusetts communities — but only those who received a ticket or written warning. Reilly said the new cooperative effort involving will be more significant because it will examine the reasons for all vehicle stops, not only those for traffic violations. “We’ve taken it a step further; we’re not just going to look at citations,” Reilly said. “We’re going to look at why was the car stopped, and was race any part of that decision to stop that car. In the end, we are going to do everything within our power to eliminate the practice of `driving while black.’ ”
On Friday, Acting Boston Police Commissioner James M. Hussey encouraged officers to issue tickets when pulling over motorists, which he said would reduce the potential for some drivers to be ticketed while others are let go with a verbal warning. The measure was one of several Boston police have taken in the year since a Globe examination of traffic tickets showed that Boston officers were more likely to give written warnings to whites for the same traffic violations for which they issued tickets to blacks and Hispanics.
State data scrutinized by the Globe for April and May of 2001 showed that Boston police gave written warnings for speeding to white drivers 57 percent of the time, but only 47 percent of the time to minorities. The rest of those stopped received speeding tickets. In Lowell, a city of 105,000, minorities and whites both received tickets 91 percent of the time.