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African American Drivers More Likely To Be Searched, Arrested by Louisville Metro Police

Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said a report released Friday looking into officers' potential bias when making traffic stops “provides no definitive conclusions" on racial profiling.But, he added that “there are areas of concern.” Included in those “areas of concern” is the higher rate at which African American resident stopped by police are searched, which, at 13.7 percent, is nearly double that of white drivers (7.6 percent), according to a report.Hispanic drivers stopped by police are searched 9.2 percent of the time.Another area of concern is the higher rate at which African American drivers are arrested as an outcome of a traffic stop, Conrad said at a news conference Friday morning. Just more than 5 percent of African American drivers are arrested following a traffic stop, compared to 3 percent of white drivers and 4.4 percent of Hispanic drivers, according to the report.The report was conducted by the University of Louisville justice administration department. Deborah Keeling, the lead researcher, said despite the report’s findings, there is no way to quantitatively or definitively determine if an individual officer or an entire department engages in bias policing.In order to determine if an officer is using bias when making a traffic stop or an arrest, Keeling said, you must first know the officers intent.“Bias is essentially a behavior that is related to intention, and it’s related to an individual’s heart,” she said.Conrad said Louisville Metro Police officers are encouraged to express their intent forthright, in all traffic stop situations.He said officers should introduce themselves, explain why a traffic stop has occurred and inform drivers of "whatever steps they need to take to go ahead and make sure that driver leaves that traffic stopped informed of what they did and why they did it.“Often, if people don’t have that information, they are left to draw their own conclusions and they may believe it was a bias against their race, their gender, their ethnicity,” he said.The NumbersThe report analyzed 87,775 traffic stops from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014—about 240 stops per day, Keeling said. White drivers accounted for 67.1 percent of all traffic stops made during that time.  African American drivers accounted for 28 percent, and Hispanic drivers accounted for 3.5 percent, according to the report.Here is a graph, the 2006 numbers are from a similar stud conducted that year.

Women made up just more than a third (37.6 percent) of the drivers stopped in the study released Friday, Keeling saidDrivers between the ages of 20 and 30 were pulled over more than drivers in other age ranges, Keeling said.  This is most likely because younger people tend to travel more than older drivers, she added.

Drivers in LMPD’s 8th Division, which includes the Middletown and Hurstbourne areas, accounted for 19 percent of all stops made during the year study period, according to the report.  That is the highest rate among division.Here’s a breakdown of number of stops by police division.

Keeling said she plans next year to breakdown stops made in each division by race, age and gender.  That breakdown was not conducted in this study, she said.Beyond Just a StopJust 9 percent of all stops made during the study period resulted in a search, Keeling said.  More than half of all searches involved white drivers (53.5 percent), according to the study.  But an African American driver is nearly twice as likely to be searched as a white or Hispanic driver, according to the report.Conrad said the “best explanation” is that"probable cause" is more prevalent in traffic stops involving African Americans than other drivers. African Americans were searched as a result of probable cause at a rate of 43 percent, compared to 33.2 percent for white drivers and 27.8 percent for Hispanic drivers, according to the study.  More than half of African American drivers (51.2 percent) give officers consent to conduct a search.Just more than 3 percent of all stops during the study period resulted in an arrest, according to the report.  A majority (60.1 percent) of stops result in a citation.

African American drivers were less likely to be issued a citation (55.5 percent) than white drivers (62.4 percent) and Hispanic drivers (60 percent).  But African American drivers were more likely to be arrested as the result of a traffic stop, according to the study. More than 5 percent of African American drivers were arrested following a traffic stop, compared to 3.1 percent of white drivers and 4.4 percent of Hispanic drivers.Again, when presented with this information, Conrad referenced the high number of probable cause searches to the higher arrest rates for African American drivers.He said 75 percent of vehicle searches based on probable cause lead to an arrest.

Moving ForwardMichael Aldridge, the executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, which filed an appeal to the Kentucky Attorney General earlier this week hoping to expedite the report’s release, said it “appears” the results are positive.“We are pleased about that,” he said.  “This says a lot that they are open to continuously review their own internal work and that the community is being respected.”Currently, 85 percent of Louisville Metro Police officers are white, Colonel Yvette Gentry said.  Conrad said 25 percent of recruits hired since 2012 have been minority and the department is working to create a police force that mirrors the population.Just 15 percent of LMPD officers are women, Conrad added.Conrad said the police department will adopt Keeling's recommendations to continue doing the study.Keeling said researchers are preparing to collect data for next year’s study, which will be conducted from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2016.  Keeling added that next year’s report will be more detailed in terms of each police division and will also include the nature of the stop—if stops were made for traffic violations or because the driver was thought to be a suspect in crime.Conrad said he will continue to stress to officers the importance of explaining why traffic stops occur and the department will work to provide the “framework” officers need to “do their job.”An analysis of vehicle stops is just one of six strategies law enforcement agencies are encouraged to implement when addressing bias police work based on suggestions by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Keeling said.The other five tools that can be used include accountability and supervision, policies that prohibit biased policing, recruitment and hiring, minority community outreach, education and training.In Louisville, white residents make up about 70 percent of the population, African Americans account for about 21 percent, five percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are Asian, according to report data.Though Conrad said he “didn’t take away any glaring indications of bias” from the report, he ensured that it is a concern that must be “continuously monitored.”“In terms of a person’s motivation of what they do and why they do it is going to be impossible to measure with any kind of instrument because you can’t see inside a person’s heart.”Here is the entire report.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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