- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

A federal survey released yesterday found that police are no more likely to pull over drivers from racial minorities than white motorists, debunking long-standing complaints that police engage in “driving while black” racial profiling.

According to the report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 8.9 percent of whites, 8.9 percent of Hispanics and 8.1 percent of blacks reported being stopped by police while driving in the past year.

The study, which covered police contacts with the public during 2005 and was based on interviews by the Census Bureau with nearly 64,000 people ages 16 and older, also showed a decline, from 9.2 percent, in the number of blacks who said they were stopped since the 2002 survey. The figures for whites and Hispanics rose slightly since 2002, from 8.8 percent and 8.6 percent respectively.

“The 2002 and 2005 surveys found that whites, blacks and Hispanics were stopped at similar rates. Male drivers were pulled over at higher rates than female drivers, and younger drivers were more likely than older drivers to be stopped,” the BJS said.

Traffic stops are the most frequent interactions between police officers and the public, accounting for 41 percent of all contacts. An estimated 17.8 million drivers said they were stopped in 2005.

The survey did find that blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to report being searched and arrested. The BJS cautioned that “such racial disparities do not necessarily demonstrate that police treat people differently based on race or other demographic characteristics. This study did not take into account other factors that might explain these disparities.”

The 2002 report specified other factors such as driver conduct or whether drugs were in plain view.

Blacks (9.5 percent) and Hispanics (8.8 percent) were much more likely to report being searched than whites (3.6 percent). Blacks (4.5 percent) were more than twice as likely as whites (2.1 percent) to be arrested, and 3.1 percent of Hispanic drivers were arrested.

Among all police-public contacts, force was used 1.6 percent of the time. But blacks (4.4 percent) and Hispanics (2.3 percent) were more likely than whites (1.2 percent) to report being subjected to force or the threat of force by police officers.

Liberal and minority groups claimed vindication based on the arrest and use-of-force figures. They long have complained that many stops and searches are based on race rather than on legitimate suspicions.

“This report shows there are still disturbing disparities in terms of what happens to people of color after the stop,” said Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s racial justice project.

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, said his group has done its own surveys of traffic stops and said the racial disparities grow larger, the deeper the studies delve.

“It’s very important to look at the hit rates for searches the number that actually result in finding a crime,” Mr. Shelton said. “There’s a great deal of racial disparity there.”

He called for federal legislation that would collect uniform data by race on stops, arrests, use of force, searches and hit rates.

The survey also found large gaps between the sexes in more serious involvement with the police, with 3.2 percent of men but only 1.1 percent of women being arrested after a traffic stop. And among all police-public contacts, 2.2 percent involving men and 1.0 percent involving women resulted in police force.

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