- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

A traffic-stop data analysis released yesterday shows that Montgomery County police continue to ticket black motorists disproportionately to their numbers in the population, but police deny that racial profiling is the reason.
According to the report, the first mandated by an agreement last year with the U.S. Justice Department, blacks made up 27.3 percent of the 32,743 drivers stopped for traffic violations in the county from October 2000 to March 2001. The 2000 Census shows that blacks constituted 15.1 percent of the county population.
In 1998, a two-year Justice Department investigation concluded that 21 percent of traffic stops were made against blacks, who made up 12 to 14 percent of the county's licensed drivers.
"The one argument is that everything is supposed to be proportional to census data," said Police Chief Charles A. Moose, who insisted the report contains "no evidence of racial profiling."
Whites, 64.8 percent of the county population, accounted for 52.7 percent of those stopped; and Hispanics, 11.5 percent of the population, accounted for 11.4 percent of those stopped.
The chief pointed out that many of the ticketed drivers live in the neighboring Prince George's County or in the District, areas with a greater minority population than Montgomery.
Montgomery County residents accounted for 71.9 percent of traffic stops, with white county residents accounting for 55.9 percent of those stopped, blacks making up 22.9 percent and Hispanics 11.7 percent.
Chief Moose also pointed to a "consistency" between the overall number of blacks being ticketed by police and the number being selected either through "low-discretion" stops, defined by the Justice Department as situations where "officers have little discretion but to respond," or through tickets issued by the county's 15 red-light cameras.
Blacks accounted for 26 percent of low-discretion stops, which include radar stops, high-speed violations and red-light running, and 20 percent of infractions recorded by red-light cameras, which rotate throughout county intersections.
"You would still want to know where the cameras are and where the officers are stationed," said Attorney William Mertens, who has been studying traffic analysis statistics for the American Civil Liberties Union since complaints of racial profiling by Maryland State Police along Interstate 95.
Mr. Mertens said he would be skeptical if the police claimed that the disparity exists because minorities are worse drivers.
Linda Plummer, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said she could not comment on the report.
She said she was "perturbed" that police had not provided her organization with an advanced copy to review, and accused them of not acting in "good faith."
The data were compiled as part of a memorandum of agreement signed last year by the county police force, its union and the Justice Department after the county's NAACP branch complained that blacks were being treated unfairly by police.
A Justice Department investigation did not find any evidence that county police used excessive force or were engaged in a pattern of mistreatment or harassment of minorities.
The agreement called for officers to record the race and gender of people pulled over in traffic stops, as well as other details, such as whether a search or an arrest took place.


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