The death of George Floyd and subsequent charges against four white Minneapolis police officers has sparked worldwide protests over systemic racism in the criminal justice system and brought renewed demands for reform. Floyd is the latest instance of African American men and women killed through police actions.
The treatment of people of color by Illinois law officers is highlighted in a 2017 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report, which analyzed traffic stop data across the state. The information shows minority drivers are stopped far more often and subjected to more searches by police.
Black and Latinx drivers targeted
The data comes from the Illinois Traffic Stop Statistical Study Act, which has required officers to document information on all traffic stops since 2004. The most recent data from 2017 shows minority drivers are stopped 1.5 times more than white drivers.
Among those pulled over, Black drivers were asked to consent to searches 1.7 times more than white drivers, while Latinx drivers were asked 1.3 times more often. However, the statistics show white drivers were 1.3 times more likely to be found with contraband than Black and Latinx drivers.
The ACLU, citing this data and other studies, concludes Illinois officers use traffic stops more frequently as a way to look for criminal activity rather than for traffic safety reasons. The group says this behavior subjects minority drivers to invasive searches, intrusive questioning and fear, making them less likely to trust law enforcement.
Chicago stats highlight racial disparities
In the Windy City, Black drivers are four times more likely to be pulled over by police than white drivers, even though the population of both demographics is roughly the same. The data from 2017 shows:
- Black drivers made up 60% of all traffic stops while representing 31% of the city’s population
- Latinx drivers constituted 21% of all traffic stops while making up 29% of the population
- White drivers were pulled over in 15% of all stops while representing 32% of the population
ACLU issues recommendations
Based on the traffic stop data, the ACLU suggests that police organizations across the state abolish consent searches during routine traffic stops, require all officers to use body cameras and ensure that departments investigate and publicly report outcomes of all complaints.
If you are arrested and believe police targeted you based on your race, profiling can be difficult to prove. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help determine whether an officer’s arrest record shows bias as well as whether there was probable cause to stop you in the first place.