Releasing data showing blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to be stopped by Houston police last year, Police Chief Harold Hurtt called for changes to the state’s racial profiling law to eliminate data he said tend to skew the numbers, reports the Houston Chronicle. Of 785,000 people stopped last year, 36 percent were black, 31 percent were Hispanic, and 29 percent were white. Census figures put Houston’s 2003 population at 25 percent black, 40 percent Hispanic and 29 percent white. Hurtt said the 2004 statistics reflect that high-crime areas will continue to receive the bulk of the department’s attention.
Yolanda Smith of the NAACP was disappointed by the new figures. “Unfortunately, the numbers don’t show us anything more and just cemented what we already know,” she said. Hurtt said he cannot definitively declare that racial profiling does not occur among HPD officers, but pointed out that only five formal complaints alleging such behavior were lodged with the department last year. None of the five complaints was substantiated. Hurtt said Texas’ racial profiling law should be amended to exempt cases in which police have no discretion about whom they come in contact with, such as warrant stops or citizen requests for service. Criminologist Larry Hoover of Sam Houston State University agreed that racial profiling statistics often are misleading. Police officers, he said, generally are deployed to areas where more calls for service are generated. “If cops are deployed more often to [economically stressed] areas,” he said, “you’re going to get four times more stops of minorities.”