Report: Bias Seen In Illinois Police Search Data
A new report finds signs of racial bias in data collected about police searches during traffic stops in Illinois, in a report released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.
It suggests police are nearly twice as likely to ask blacks and Latino drivers to consent to vehicle searches during traffic stops than they are to ask whites.
But white drivers are 49 percent more likely than blacks to have contraband found during such a search and 56 percent more likely when compared to Latinos.
ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said the group wants lawmakers to ban the practice of consent searches, and for the governor to issue an executive order, calling a halt to state police consent searches until the legislature acts.
“When police find contraband in these searches, it is not some significant amount of drugs or cache of weapons they’re finding." he said. "They’re finding a small amount of marijuana, or a marijuana pipe. And frankly, those are not the kinds of things that are keeping us safer anyway.”
The analysis is based on figures reported by law enforcement agencies during 2013 under the Illinois Traffic Stop Statistical Study Act.
“There’s actually contraband more often found in the cars of white motorists in a search," said Yohnka. "I think it’s something that is very troubling, and shows that we still have a long way to go.”
Adam Schwartz of the ACLU says the figures are "troubling'' and the situation "must be addressed.
A new study shows race could play a role in traffic stops across Illinois.
An Illinois Department of Transportation and University of Illinois at Chicago study of traffic stops in 2010 found that minorities are more likely to be cited or to be asked for a consent search than white drivers. The research is part of a state rule that requires police to record the details of traffic stops and report them to the DOT. For the last few years, the research has revealed similar results.
Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the ACLU wants state police to get rid of consent searches entirely. A consent search is when an officer asks the driver if he or she can search the vehicle. Unlike other searches done by police, a vehicle search can be done without a warrant. All the officer needs is consent from the driver.
"Given the danger of conscious or unconscious bias being in play, we think that consent searches always will yield a disparate impact against minority motorists. It simply is too subjective a technique to apply," Schwartz said.
In June of this year, the ACLU of Illinois filed a complaint to the United States Department of Justice. According to Schwartz, the ACLU wants there to be a federal investigation into Illinois State Police practices, and for the US DOJ to issue a ban on the use of consent searches.
Schwartz said the new study confirms the need for such action.
"We think that it's a technique that can't be cured or reformed," he said.
Monique Bond, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police Department, said they are in the process of reviewing the raw data and expect an internal review to be completed within the coming weeks. She said that no decision had been made to cease consent searches.