Statewide data on 366,060 traffic stops shows that if you are a black or Hispanic driver in Connecticut, you are twice as likely to get stopped by police and more than twice as likely to have your vehicle searched.
Connecticut’s driving population is 84 percent white, 8 percent black, and 10 percent Hispanic.
According to the eight months of data provided in a 500-page report, the driving population of blacks in Connecticut — about 8 percent — accounted for about 14 percent of all the stops. The Hispanic driving population — about 10 percent — accounted for 11.84 percent.
The data from 91 municipal police departments, state police, and seven university police departments showed officers were twice as likely to search the vehicle of the black or Hispanic driver even though police found contraband more often in the vehicles driven by white drivers than they did in the vehicles driven by black and Hispanic drivers.
“The data shows police in general treating drivers of color with more suspicion for less cause,” Sandra Staub, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said Thursday.
She believes there’s more than enough evidence of a “systematic bias” in the report for police departments to begin to take action.
But researchers and lawmakers who championed the collection of this data cautioned the news media against drawing any conclusions about the information until January when there will be a full year of data to analyze.
“This report is a presentation of data,” Ken Barone, policy and research specialist at the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, said. “The analysis will come in January. One of the purposes of doing it, besides the fact that we were legislatively required to get this report out, the data is there for the public to consume and for folks to draw their own conclusions.”
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, who was instrumental in passing the 2012 law requiring the collection of the data, said he’s content to wait six months for more information.
“I recognize the importance in many people’s minds of having a conclusion, but as someone who has experienced racial profiling both prior to being elected and after being elected, in my car, in my suit, I think what is most important is that we actually move the ball,” Holder-Winfield said.
He said if the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board was perceived to be operating with an agenda as opposed to analyzing data and thinking about what it means for the future, “I think that would be a problem.”
It would run counter to what the group is trying to do by having an open dialogue about these issues in order to get participation from all the various stakeholders, including law enforcement, Holder-Winfield said.
The data collected by the group is also complicated because it tries to account for the estimated driving population. The estimated driving population calculation takes into account how many people of a specific race or ethnicity are over the age of 16 and have access to a vehicle. The estimated driving population is much lower than the population of residents living in any of the cities and towns.
In New Haven, black drivers account for about 20 percent of the driving population, but they are stopped 46.4 percent of the time, according to the report. The white driving population in New Haven is 66.51 percent, but they are stopped only 51.12 percent of the time. The Hispanic driving population is around 16.47 percent, and they are stopped 21.59 percent of the time.
In Hartford, where 18.54 percent of the estimated driving population is black, they are pulled over at a rate of 35.33 percent. The number of Hispanic drivers getting pulled over is similar. The group estimated 18.80 percent of the Hispanic population in Hartford drives, and they are pulled over at a rate of 32.92 percent.
“I think the data shows what it shows,” Bill Dyson, chairman of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board, said. “That’s not intended to be double-talk in any way. We didn’t create the numbers. They are the numbers we’ve gotten.”
He said the information has to be there so that law enforcement and the community can have a discussion.
Redding Police Chief Douglas S. Fuchs, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, said the dialogue about this started after the U.S. Department of Justice found that the East Haven Police Department engaged in racially profiling Latino motorists.
The past two years have been “a wonderful collaboration,” Fuchs said.
However, that’s not to say he agrees with the decision to use “estimated driving population” as the benchmark. The number, according to Fuchs, has a 10 percent error rate.
The Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission also was unhappy with the decision to use the “estimated driving population.”
“For the record, LPRAC is highly concerned that such high margins of error may result in an EDP value that could mask racial profiling, which would be counterproductive to the overall goals of our legislative mandate,” Werner Oyanadel, executive director of LPRAC, wrote in a letter to Dyson.