Civil rights groups called Thursday for ending the Illinois state police practice of searching vehicles during routine traffic stops, citing new statistics that show black and Hispanic motorists are searched more often even though drugs or other illegal items turn up more frequently among white drivers, reports the Chicago Tribune. In a letter to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the groups said the state-funded research shows that minorities are unfairly singled out by police departments around the state. They called on him to order the Illinois State Police to end “consent searches,” in which drivers agree to open their cars for inspection.
The study, required under racial-profiling legislation sponsored by then state Sen. Barack Obama of Chicago, is being conducted by the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety based on numbers reported to the state by police agencies around Illinois. The 2007 statewide data show that compared with whites, police agencies searched blacks three times more often and Hispanics more than twice as often. But police discovered illicit goods roughly twice as often when whites agreed to searches.