National Geographic : 2018 Apr
Vermont 5,000 Whites are more likely to be stopped than blacks in three states. Cook County, Illinois* 972,000 Driving-age black population Tennessee 851,000 Colorado 169,000 Nearly 14 million black Americans of driving age live in the 17 states where data are available; results show they are more likely to be stopped than whites. 1.4 1.3 Texas 2.5 million 2.8 times as likely 1.2 times as likely Massachusetts 366,000 Arizona 217,000 South Carolina 1 million 1.5 1.7 1.7 2.3 North Dakota 13,000 2.3 Montana 4,000 2.8 Florida 2.4 million California 1.8 million Mississippi 841,000 Washington 210,000 Virginia 1.3 million New Jersey 918,000 Ohio 1.1 million North Carolina 1.7 million Wisconsin 265,000 Connecticut 282,000 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.5 1.5 1.4 contempt in July 2017. President Donald Trump— who has stoked racial tensions by bashing immi- grants, protesting athletes, and others—pardoned Arpaio the following month. Arpaio recently an- nounced plans to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate. The statistics on traffic stops elsewhere are spotty—neither uniformly available nor com- prehensive—but they show the same pattern of blacks and Hispanics being stopped and searched more frequently than others. The disparity spans the nation, affecting drivers in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Men are more at risk than wom- en, and for black men, being disproportionately singled out is virtually a universal experience. A 2017 study in Connecticut, one of the few states that collect and analyze comprehensive traffic-stop data, found that police dispropor- tionately pull over black and Hispanic drivers during daylight hours, when officers can more easily see who is behind the wheel. Many police departments have policies and training to pre- vent racial profiling, but those rules can get lost in day-to-day police work. “One reason minorities are stopped dispropor- tionately is because police see violations where they are,” said Louis Dekmar, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, who runs the police department in LaGrange, Georgia. “Crime is often significantly higher in minority neighborhoods than elsewhere. And that is where we allocate our resources. That is the paradox.” Too often, officers treat minorities driving in mostly white areas as suspect, Dekmar said. “It’s wrong, and there is no excuse for that,” he said. ROBERT L. WILKINS was a public defender in 1992, when he and several family members were stopped by a Maryland state trooper while returning to Washington, D.C., from his grandfa- ther’s funeral in Chicago. The trooper accused them of speeding, then asked to search their rented Cadillac. “If you’ve got nothing to hide, then what’s your problem?” the trooper said when they objected to the search on principle. The trooper made them wait for a drug- sniffing dog. As Wilkins and his family stood on the side of the highway, a German shepherd sniffed “seemingly every square inch of the car’s exterior,” Wilkins recalls. Before long, there were five or six police cars around them. At one point, Wilkins, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, noticed a white cou- ple and their two children staring as they rode by. He imagined that they thought the worst: “ They’re putting two and two together and get- ting five,” he said. “They see black people and they’re thinking, ‘These are bad people.’ ” Wilkins filed a class-action suit alleging an illegal search and racial profiling, and the state of Maryland settled, largely because of an un- earthed police document that had warned troopers to be on the lookout for black men in rental cars, who were suspected of ferrying crack cocaine. The settlement required state police to keep statistics on the race and ethnicity of drivers who were stopped. A second suit forced police to revamp their complaint system. Those changes brought some improvement, and ra- cial disparities in traffic stops in Maryland were cut in half. What lingers, though, is the indignity and anger that drivers feel over being singled out. “ There’s a power that they want to exert, that you have to experience. And what do you do about it?” Smith said. “ There’s an embedded terror in our community, and that’s just wrong.” j KENNEDY ELLIOTT, NGM STAFF SOURCE: STANFORD UNIVERSITY OPEN POLICING PROJECT GRAPHIC DATA ARE LIMITED TO HIGHWAY TRAFFIC STOPS, WHICH MAY INCLUDE OUT-OF-STATE DRIVERS, AND DO NOT REFLECT STOPS ON OTHER ROADWAYS.