Racial Profiling Report, 2002
Prior to 2002, the concept of racial profiling was viewed as an effective law enforcement investigative tool. It was mainly used in the War on Drugs campaign to target narcotic's traffickers around the country. However, complaints and lawsuits brought from victims of overzealous law enforcement practices over the years raised the eyebrows of legislatures across the country. It seemed unreasonable to law makers that police officers were stopping motorists and pedestrians without reason of a law violation, a constitutionally protected freedom drawn from interpretation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. These practices relied upon unsubstantiated suspicious circumstances, although proven effective in screening for illegal activity, and the race of the individual in determining whether illegal activity was occurring.
Where do we stand?
The State of Texas adopted and enacted seven new laws during the 77th Legislative Session prohibiting racial profiling. These new laws have been incorporated into the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures, Chapter 2, Article 2.131 - 2.137. This legislation required Texas Law Enforcement Agencies to adopted departmental policies prohibiting the practice of racial profiling. These laws also required comprehensive, comparative analysis of racial profiling data collected from the previous year to be reported to the local governing bodies by March 1 of the next year; hence, this report.
According to the 2000 Census, 1,244 households in Sweeny have vehicles available to them, see Table H44, U.S. Census Bureau Report. Of those, 73% are Caucasian Households, 17% are African-American Households, 10% are Hispanic Households, 0% are Asian, 0% are Native American, and 0% are Other. Tables HCT33B, HCT33D, HCT33H, and HCT33I detail the racial breakdown of vehicle availability.
Two specific types of reports were generated from racial profiling data collected in 2002. One report is data from residential stops, or stops involving Sweeny residents. The other report is data from non-residential stops, or stops involving non-Sweeny residents. According to the reports, 274 stops were residential stops and 146 stops were non-residential stops.
The Fair Roads Standard
Neither the law nor Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCLEOSE) rules provide guidance as to what "baseline" racial profiling stop numbers should be compared in order to accurately estimate "the prevalence of racial profiling," as required in the law. And, without a reasonable and consistent baseline, no two law enforcement agencies' racial profiling statistics may be comparable, nor can a definable standard of acceptable/unacceptable be applied.
The consensus of national experts is the baseline should attempt to mirror who is on our roads. After examining the available options and consulting with national experts, ACLU of Texas, LULAC, and the Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition have jointly endorsed what is believed to be the best baseline option for Texas at this time: the Fair Roads Standard.
The Fair Roads Standard compares racial profiling stop totals to a baseline derived from vehicle availability date in the Census. That data measures the extent to which different demographic groups have access to cars. Vehicle availability data is most appropriate as a Texas baseline because it is easily accessible and address gaps other baselines create. For example, proposals to use drivers' license data for a race baseline ignore the fact that Texas licensed population data lumps together whites and Latinos, making all comparisons useless. Using residential population data ignores differences in rates of vehicle ownership. The Fair Roads Standard accounts for these variable and is based on the most reliable available data: the 2000 Census.
The Fair Roads Standard measures who is most likely to be subject to traffic stops by law enforcement - not those who take the bus, but those with access to cars. Since it does not strictly concern ownership, it includes data from those drivers who do not own vehicle, but nonetheless are part of the driving population. Under the Fair Roads Standard, all racial/ethnic groups specified in SB 1074 are individually analyzed.
Are we engaged in racial profiling?
Nobody knows. In order to determine the prevalence of racial profiling, at least according to the present guidelines, the percent of households with vehicles must be compared to the percent of stops per race/ethnic background conducted by officers. The difference between the resulting numbers show how much more or less frequently that race is stopped compared with how many people from the race are on the road. Although this is an effective comparison, it still does not establish an acceptable variance.
For example, if the percent of households with vehicles in Anytown, USA,
among Caucasians is 60%, and the percent of Caucasian stops is 40%, is that
20% variance acceptable or unacceptable? What if the percentage of stops is
80%? Since we have no standard, these figures, although revealing, are
useless in determining the prevalence of racial profiling.
From reviewing this data, it seems any variance within 10% would be acceptable, but anything above that might be some cause for concern. In Sweeny's case, however, no variance occurred at more than 6% above vehicle availability rates when compared to population rates.
Thanks to a grant from the State of Texas, video cameras with audio and video surveillance were installed in each Sweeny police patrol vehicle. As a result, every traffic and pedestrian stop is now recorded according to departmental policy. Data collection and reporting requirements have been exempted because of the camera installation. Video tapes from all recorded traffic stops are retained according to Records Retention Guidelines for a minimum of 120 days before destruction or re-recording, unless a complaint was filed.
Due to the above exemption status, further reporting and compilation of racial statistics are no longer required. The Sweeny Police Department will, however, conduct periodic internal reviews to maintain and ensure ethical standards of law enforcement.
No complaints of racial profiling were lodged against officers in 2002.
123 N. Oak Street, Sweeny, Texas, 77480, USA
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Last updated on 12-06-2013
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