In March of 2011, APD published its 2010 Racial Profiling report. In this report, APD stated that Blacks/African Americans were stopped 28,949 times; which is 12% of all traffic stops and, therefore, fairly in line with this group’s representation of the total Austin population. But, in that same report, it is noted that Blacks/African Americans were searched 4,356 times, or 22% of all searches. Based on the APD report, Blacks/African Americans were searched one out of every seven times a member of this group was stopped.That's a remarkable disparity, and to think it was even worse before Austin PD began requiring written consent at traffic stops. Even after that reform, Hispanics and blacks are still searched at traffic stops in Austin one out of seven and eight times, respectively, compared to one in 19 times for white folks. Given there's no significant difference in the "hit rate" for finding contraband, those ratios are difficult to explain away with a race-neutral interpretation. Can you think of one, or is this a case of systemic discrimination?
This same report shows that Hispanics/Latinos were stopped 68,327 times, or 29% of all traffic stops. This percentage of stops is actually slightly less than this group’s representation in the population (35%). Still, this group was searched 8,140 times, or 42% of all searches. Based on the APD report, Hispanics/Latinos were searched one out of every eight times a member of this group was stopped.
Caucasians (“White” in the table below) were stopped 127,661 times, or 55% of all traffic stops. This percentage of stops is actually slightly higher than this group’s representation in the population (50%). Caucasians were searched 6,724 times, or 34% of all searches. Based on the APD report, Caucasians were searched one out of every nineteen times a member of this group was stopped.
The APD has long held that it does not pull people over based on their race/ethnicity. This assertion holds true when looking at the data on stops. Despite this, the data does indicate that after the stop, a clear disparity emerges. This disparity is not who is being stopped nor in the number of stops, but rather what occurs after the stop. Blacks/ African Americans are almost three times (2.71) as likely as a Caucasian to be searched while Hispanics/Latinos are over twice as likely (2.37) as a Caucasian to be searched.
APD calls the finding of some form of contraband a “hit.” Again, looking at APD’s 2010 Racial Profiling Report, it can be seen that searches of Caucasians yielded a hit in 27% of searches. For Blacks/African Americans, the hit rate was 32% despite being searched almost three times as often as Caucasians. The hit rate for Hispanics/Latinos was 28% despite being searched over twice as often as Caucasians. Even with the disparity in search rates, there is actually a slight difference in the amount of contraband found as a result of a search.
These numbers clearly show that searching Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos more often does not yield a significantly higher hit rate; therefore, the practice seems futile and calls any justification of it into question.
See prior, related Grits coverage:
- Time to implement written consent at traffic stop searches
- Dutton: Require written or recorded searches at traffic stops
- Written consent protects Texans' rights and prosecutors cases
- House vote count on written consent
- 'Strange coalition' backs SB 1195
- NYPD to require written consent for traffic and home searches
- Searching for consent at Texas traffic stops
- Don't mind if I take a look, do ya?
- Police oversearching not all about race
- Austin drivers refuse searches when they know they can
- How often do drivers refuse consent searches?