- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Black drivers are more likely to be searched and arrested than white drivers after being pulled over by Louisville police, according to a new study.

Police Chief Steve Conrad said Friday that the disparities are “areas of concern,” but said the report doesn’t definitively show racial bias was a factor.

The study by University of Louisville researchers analyzed 87,775 vehicle stops between April 2013 and March 2014, The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/1yuHBLQ) reported. Of those, 67 percent involved white drivers, who make up 74 percent of Jefferson County’s population, according to 2013 U.S. Census data. Twenty-eight percent involved black drivers, who make up 21 percent of the county population. The other stops involved drivers classified as Hispanic or other, who represent 5 percent of the county population.

Fewer than 10 percent of the stops studied resulted in a vehicle search. But when searches occurred, they involved black drivers nearly 14 percent of the time, compared to almost 8 percent for white drivers and 9 percent for Hispanics.

Blacks are also more likely to be arrested during a police stop, the study showed. Five percent of stops involving blacks resulted in an arrest, compared to 3 percent of stops involving whites and 4 percent of stops involving Hispanics, it said.

Amid community concerns about racial profiling, Conrad requested $55,000 to study whether there was evidence of a racial bias in vehicle stops.

Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott said the report was a step in the right direction but said there is more work to be done on the issue.

“It would be easy to read the report and wipe it under the table and say there is no racial profiling,” Scott said. “When you look at the numbers and see 7 percent of whites and 13 percent of blacks are searched, how do you even begin to argue that that’s not racially biased?”

Pilot data collection began in January 2013, and information was analyzed over the summer, said lead researcher Deborah Keeling of U of L’s justice administration department.

Conrad and Keeling cited probable cause as a factor that helps explain the discrepancy in the car search and arrest statistics, but said data are not able to tell the full story.

“There is no quantitative research, no methodology, that can determine whether or not an individual or a group of individuals … are engaging in biased policing,” Keeling said. “To really definitely be able to determine if an individual is acting or making decision on biases, you have to know their intent.”

Police conduct a probable cause search when they believe they have enough evidence to determine a driver was involved in criminal activity. Forty-three percent of searches involving blacks are probable cause searches, compared to 33 percent with whites and 28 percent with Hispanics.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com

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