Black motorists stopped by the Houston Police Department are 3.5 times more likely to be searched than Anglos, reports the Houston Chronicle. It was the worst disparity reported by any major Texas city in the first statewide compilation since law enforcement agencies have been required to report racial data on traffic stops. An analysis of the 2002 data found that Latino drivers stopped by Houston officers are 2.4 times more likely than Anglos to be searched.
The study of statistics from 413 law enforcement agencies released yesterday was commissioned by the Texas State Conference of NAACP branches, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.
The report found a similar pattern by traffic police statewide. About six of every seven law enforcement agencies in Texas searched black and Latino motorists after a traffic stop at higher rates than Anglos. Three-quarters of the agencies stopped minorities at significantly higher rates, the report said. Statewide, blacks are 1.6 times more likely to be searched after being stopped than Anglos. Latino drivers are 1.4 times more likely to be searched.
Will Harrell of the state ACLU said the data provide “police departments with a means to measure how they’re doing and, now that they know, they have to go about seeing what they can do to remedy the problems. That includes training of line officers, discipline, sanctions and even termination in some cases.”
More than 600 police and sheriff’s departments ignored the civil rights groups’ open records requests for the demographic information used for the report. Of the 413 agencies that responded, more than a third did not report the basic stop, search, and arrest data required by the new law.
“We’re concerned about the issue and we keep trying to understand the data and the reasons behind it better,” said Houston Police Capt. David Cutler, the department’s racial profiling data collection expert. “But the mistake that people often make is thinking everyone has the same probability of getting stopped in traffic and that’s not the case.”