Study shows blacks more likely than whites to be searched during - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Study shows blacks more likely than whites to be searched during LMPD traffic stops

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In order to view the study itself, CLICK HERE.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- African Americans are being pulled over, searched and arrested at a disproportionate rate in Louisville, according to a study released on Friday.   

For example, vehicles driven by blacks were almost twice as likely to be searched by Louisville Metro Police when stopped than those driven by whites.

Black drivers were searched nearly 14 percent of the time they were pulled over, compared to eight percent for white drivers and nine percent for Hispanics.

Also, while blacks make up 21 percent of the population here, they accounted for 28 percent of traffic stops made by police over a year's time, according to the study from a University of Louisville professor.

And black drivers were more likely to be arrested -- 5.4 percent of the time compared to 3 percent of white drivers and 4.4 percent of Hispanics.

But Chief Steve Conrad and University of Louisville researcher Deborah Keeling, who analyzed the data from April 1, 2013 to March 31, both stressed that the statistics alone could not prove there is racial bias in the department.

"This report provides no definitive conclusions on bias within our department," Conrad said at a press conference Friday morning. "There are areas of concerns" including higher arrest and search rates of blacks "but I didn't take away from this report any glaring indications of bias."

Conrad said the department will continue to monitor the issue but it is impossible to determine a officer's motivation for pulling someone over.

"You can't see inside a person's heart," he told reporters. "You really can't tell their intent."

To view an LMPD PowerPoint presentation on the study, click HERE.

In her study, Keeling said Bias can't be proven unless other explanations, including "differing driving habits, differing driving patterns, and differing patterns of driving violations can be eliminated," she said.

Keeling also said vehicles driven by blacks were searched more often because police had probable cause – or the belief in which some criminal activity has taken place -- in more stops involving black drivers. And when a vehicle is searched, Keeling wrote, it is more likely police will make an arrest.

Conrad said of the searches,  "I don't know that the data necessarily answers why that occurs." He also pointed out the probable cause issue and the importance of the reason for the search as factors. And Conrad noted the numbers from a decade ago showed that blacks were three times more likely to be searched.

"It is something that we are looking at," Conrad said. "It is something that we are trying to understand."

Whites make up 70 percent of the city's population and represented 67 percent of the stops. Hispanics, which are now five percent of Louisville's population, made up 3.5 percent of traffic stops, according to the study.

The report, commissioned by Conrad in 2012 at a cost of $55,000, has been under review by the department for weeks, prompting some in the community to say it was being intentionally withheld. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky recently launched a campaign trying to get the study released, including asking the state Attorney General to intervene.

Keeling compared the data from LMPD's 87,775 stops over the last year to similar stats from 2006, finding the number of black drivers pulled over climbed 2 percent while traffic stops of white drivers fell the same amount.

The number of female drivers stopped also climbed two percent, from 35 to 37 percent, but was still much lower than the percentage of men pulled over, Keeling wrote, but added that those numbers did not prove a gender bias.

Those between the ages of 20 to 30 were stopped the most – at about 39 percent. People over 60 represented only five percent of those stopped.

About 9 percent of the stops resulted in a search – and 4 percent ended in arrests – which is down from 11 percent in 2006.  Sixty percent of the stops resulted in a citation and 36 percent in a warning, according to the study.

Whites and Hispanics were more likely to get a citation – 64 percent and 60 percent respectively – than blacks (55 percent). Black drivers were more likely to receive warnings.

By area, the east end was where police made the most stops, in part, Conrad said, because of the location of the expressways and the volume of complaints from citizens about traffic problems. 

Keeling recommended that police continue to conduct annual analysis of vehicle stops, creating a database to track and analyze the data.

Conrad said he would adopt all of Keeling's recommendations. He also said he has shared the report with the department's 1,200 officers and is stressing to them the importance of telling someone why they are being pulled over.

"If people don't have that information, they are left to draw their own conclusions and they may believe it's a bias against their race, gender, ethnicity ...," Conrad said. "People will leave that interaction, maybe not satisfied because they may be leaving with a citation, but at least they will be leaving with an understanding that they have been treated fairly."

Conrad encouraged anyone who had issues with their traffic stop to contact the department and file a complaint.

"We want to know about that," he said. "...People make mistakes and when that happens, it's our job as leaders of this organization to hold them accountable."

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