Friday, November 13, 2015

Jail suicides, traffic stop data, on deck at TX House hearing next week

The Texas House County Affairs Committee is having another Sandra-Bland related hearing next week will also address errors in DPS racial profiling data. Here's the agenda. In particular:
  • The Committee will meet to discuss how Texas Department of Public Safety codes race during traffic stops, problems with their current method, and ways to correct coding moving forward. 
  • Additionally, Texas Commission on Jail Standards will present the new inmate intake screening form to the Committee and discuss recent jail suicides. 
The Dallas News previewed the jail suicide part. (See also the Texas Tribune.) And Grits' own Jennifer Laurin wrote this about the traffic data.
Too much has been made about this new Jail Standards Commission form, IMO. That's a fine, bureaucratic change but it's not the end-all-be-all of jail-suicide prevention; it barely scratches the surface. (Grits' new contributing writer Michele Deitch offered these more probative suggestions to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in September, arguing for a much more comprehensive approach.)

On the racial profiling data at traffic stops, to me this would be a missed opportunity if all they look at are the codes for Hispanic vs. white. Nobody has revisited the fields on traffic stop data collected under Texas' anti-racial profiling law in 14 years, so this might be an opportunity to revisit the question. Some of the Tier II data fields, like whether contraband was found during a search, really ought to be made mandatory, even for departments with dashcams, who are now exempted.

This may be an opportunity to improve the stop data, which really can't be used to prove racist intentions but which has many other uses for police accountability advocates. What we got back in 2001 was a compromise; requiring more/better data fields could make the information a lot more probative.


Anonymous said...

Racial profiling data no matter how detailed typically assumes officers are all white and further, specifically for DPS, doesn't necessarily limit a geographical area like a police department encompasses.

As for searches, is a search conducted or counted - say after a traffic crash when the driver(s) are taken to the ER for injuries and before the vehicle is towed? It is an inventory, but does that count?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@9:48, the data assumes nothing about the officers, I'm not sure what you're talking about.

The data distinguishes among types of searches. Tier II data is the best, because it lets you get to whether contraband was found in consent searches, which is the piece of the puzzle that gets you to officer discretion. If black folks are consent searched more often but contraband is less likely to be found - which is a common pattern - that's a close at the data can get to proving discriminatory policing.

Anonymous said...

So then are black, Hispanic or white officers more likely to ask for consent from black folks?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The data don't say. The issue measured by data is what do police do as a class, it's not about any one officer.

Anonymous said...

I've mentioned this before and I'll mention it again; I have officer friends of different races and the white officer often tells me that he hears minority motorist make "off the cuff" comments that they were stopped because they were black, etc. He responds to the motorist that their speed was checked by laser at 1102.3' (or whatever distance the laser read) and that it is impossible to tell the race of a driver at that distance on a car going 88/60 (or whatever high speed).

I have a black officer friend that has told me he can get away with much more during a traffic stop than that of a white officer and he was referring to searches, etc.

While one can state the issue is measured by data is what police do as a class, the underlying assumption is that "police as a class" are often assumed to be white males. Imagine what a handful of officers of any race can do to inaccuratly affect the "class."

Anonymous said...

What about the Albinos? No one cares enough to classify us, the ones that are considered as (PCHs') pigmentation challenged humans. Where do we fit in this very colorful world?

I have to let you go, I've got another call coming in from a friend that just happens to be: 1/3 third Caucasian (or, was it Peckerwood?), 1/3 Latino (or, was it Hispanic?), and 1/3 Black (or, was it African American?). Anyway, he's got one more gender trans related operation to go before we can officially refer to him as Mary.

Darn, all of this confusion will certainly make other humans rethink being or, becoming a public servant charged with getting descriptions to fit the humans.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If you were an actual public servant, 1:20, you'd know that, according to the model racial profiling policy created for the state by the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, LEOs need only list "The person’s race or ethnicity, as stated by the person or as determined by the officer to the best of his/her ability."

So there's no need for "getting" anything, it's all pretty straightforward if they follow the rules. Take a look at some of the people being mislabeled and tell me if honest application of that policy wouldn't have completely resolved the issue.