Community Group Gets Results of Davenport Traffic Stop Study - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Community Group Gets Results of Davenport Traffic Stop Study

Updated: June 27, 2013 10:29 PM

A study designed to determine whether Davenport police treat Black and White drivers differently has turned up several shades of gray. It's been ongoing for almost two years, after several community groups like the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens and Quad Cities Interfaith, came to police with concerns about racial profiling. Thursday, they came together to learn the results.

Those are based on two years worth of statistics , a lot of complicated math, to answer a simple question. Are minority drivers treated differently at traffic stops? "We were hearing from people that they felt they were being stopped disproportionately," Loxi Hopkins of Quad Cities Interfaith says. So community leaders and police turned to Dr. Chris Barnum and his team at St. Ambrose to determine if racial profiling is real or a perception.

Criminal justice students counted drivers in different Davenport neighbors and compared them to census data. Dr. Barnum says, "The census data and our observers' data is very, very close, which makes us feel pretty good about our baseline." Traffic stop statistics from 2011 and 2012 were then measured against that baseline. The findings show that White drivers are more likely to be issued citations than Black. Black drivers are twice as likely to be arrested than White. And some officers arrest more drivers of one color or the other.

But Dr. Barnum says it is too soon to draw any conclusions. He is waiting on more information now that the way officers are reporting has been refined. "So you'll be able to tell, are certain groups being asked more, can I search your car?" He says, "If something like that shows up, there's really no other reason for it than some sort of intent."

At this point, the study is still raising questions for those on the panel and police. Could the numbers reflect the nature of officers' assignments? Chief Frank Donchez says, "What's interesting was that there really seems to be a correlation with the NETS unit. And you look at one officer, that officer was assigned to NETS in 2011, and the numbers were high. On patrol in 2012 and the numbers were in line with everything else."

Some here are also questioning the study itself. "I'm a little concerned with the baseline in that it's based on visual," concerned citizen Kevin Perkins says. "I've been mistaken and pulled over, and on my ticket, this is a personal story, it had Caucasian on my ticket, my birth certificate says Negro." Those we talked to say there were surprises in the stats, some good and some a cause for concern. But, "One concern I don't have is that nothing's gonna happen," Hopkins tells us. She says she's confident this communication will bring change. 

We are told the study will continue, and that it's the first of its kind in Iowa. Davenport's Police Chief says it's all about being pro-active and transparent, and reminds us crime is down across the city over the past five years.

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