AUSTIN - A report released Wednesday by the Center for Policing Equity shows members of Austin’s Hispanic and Black communities are more likely to be pulled over in their vehicles and experience use of force.
The 18-page report examines information provided by APD from 2014 and 2015, isolating race and ethnicity, and exploring differences in practices and modeling the outcomes. The Center for Policing Equity worked with law enforcement leaders, academics, community advocates and the Justice Department to create the National Justice Database (NJD). The NJD is supported by the National Science Foundation to compile national-level statistics about police behavior and develop a road map for examining police data.
The center states there are three possible explanations for racial disparities in policing:
- Disparities that arise from community characteristics,
- Disparities that arise from police characteristics,
- Disparities that arise from the relationships between communities and police.
“While the truth likely incorporates elements of each of these explanations, the NJD framework allows departments to learn about how all three contribute to racial disparities,” the report states.
The report done on Austin Police Department only examines the first explanation because researchers say the other two require analysis of surveys and at this time there is not funding to do that.
The report looked at vehicle stops that resulted in a citation in 2015 and found APD stopped more Whites and Hispanics than Blacks, which is expected because Whites make up 53% of Austin's metro area population and Hispanics 32%, compared to Blacks which make up just 7%. However, more Hispanic drivers are arrested and more Blacks searched. When it comes to stops made at the discretion of an officer, Black motorist make up a higher share of who's stopped.
It should also be noted that APD only requires reporting of stops that result in a citation, something Chief Art Acevedo has instructed his department to change by 2017.
When it comes to use of force, researchers used data from 2014 and found Blacks were subject to far more use of force by officers than Whites or Hispanics. The severity of that force is also more severe on Blacks and researchers found neighborhoods with a higher percentage of Black or Hispanic residents experienced a disproportionate amount of police use of force.
Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, President of the Center for Policing, said in Austin this can't be attributed to the "community characteristics".
"No one should be saying the reason there is more force used against Black than White or Latino than non-Latino in Austin is because of crime or poverty. That is not sufficient to explain it," Goff said.
While the disparities do exist, researchers concluded APD's vehicle searchers appear to be highly effective because they result in finding contraband 48% of the time.
Chief Acevedo said there is no denying the disparities and acknowledged individual biases exist, but he added it's a problem rooted outside of police departments.
"The elephant in the room that we've talked about before and we'll say it again, in our nation, is that race relations are not where they need to be in 2016," said Acevedo. "Opportunity is not where it needs to be in 2016 and unfortunately, the societal issues, and unfortunately the police departments end up having to deal with the failures of those societal issues, the frustrations."
He added his department will continue to work on de-escalation techniques and relations with the community, particularly when it comes to police sergeants responding to public requests.
The next step in the research process of this project would be community and officer surveys, but the program is funded through grants and doesn't have the resources to do that just yet.
GO HERE to read the entire The Science of Policing Equity report.
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