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New Minneapolis police data dashboard confirms that yes, black people get stopped more

Between Oct. 31, 2016 and Oct. 12 of this year, the Minneapolis Police Department recorded 50,950 stops in the database, an average of 147 per day.

Do Minneapolis police unfairly target people of color, or don’t they?

Your answer to that question these days may say something about your politics, but getting to the actual truth behind it is complicated.

But thanks to newly available data on stops, citations and other actions taken by Minneapolis police, broken down by race, it’s possible to at least put some numbers behind the public debate about race and policing. And those numbers are not available thanks to a data request by a media organization or a lawsuit — they’re part of a new dashboard that is being published by the Minneapolis Police Department itself, in an effort to improve transparency and accountability to the public.

So what can — and can’t — the data tell us about the way police do their jobs in Minneapolis?

What we can learn

The dashboard includes the race and gender of people stopped, whether or not they were searched, the nature of the stop and whether anyone was cited or booked, among other things, and can be broken down by neighborhood or police precinct. It is updated daily.

Between Oct. 31, 2016 and Oct. 12 of this year, the Minneapolis Police Department recorded 50,950 stops in the database, an average of 147 per day.

Black people, including African American and people of East African descent, make up 18 percent of the population in Minneapolis and 40 percent of the stops included in MPD’s dashboard. When it comes to investigative stops, which theoretically require a reasonable suspicion of misconduct, black people were stopped more than twice as often as whites. In instances where a person was searched, 62 percent were black. In vehicle searches, 63 percent of people whose cars were searched were black. Forty-four percent of those stopped for moving violations and 53 percent of those stopped for equipment violations were black. Fifty-one percent of people on the receiving end of citations were black, and 57 percent of people booked as part of an arrest were black.

Black share of MPD stops by category
Black people make up about 18 percent of Minneapolis' population, but they had a disproportionate share of interactions with police between Oct. 31, 2016 and Oct. 12, 2017.
Source: Minneapolis Police Department

American Indians, just over 1 percent of Minneapolis’ population, account for 4 percent of the interactions in the Minneapolis Police Department’s dashboard. American Indians make up 9 percent of people searched, 5 percent of people whose vehicles are searched and 10 percent of investigative stops. The share of people stopped for moving and equipment violations who are listed as American Indian are roughly proportional to the size of the American Indian population, at under 2 percent. American Indians made up 3 percent of people issued citations and 12 percent of those booked.

American Indian share of MPD stops by category
American Indians make up a little more than 1 percent of Minneapolis' population, and had a disproportionately high share of some types of interactions with police between Oct. 31, 2016 and Oct. 12, 2017.
Source: Minneapolis Police Department

White people, who account for about 60 percent of Minneapolis’ population, make up 27 percent of all police interactions in the database, 19 percent of persons searches 16 percent of people whose vehicles are searched. White people accounted for 30 percent of those stopped for equipment violations and 39 percent of those stopped for moving violations.They received 29 percent of citations and made up 20 percent of bookings.

White share of MPD stops by category
White people make up about 60 percent of Minneapolis' population, and had a disproportionately low share of interactions with police between Oct. 31, 2016 and Oct. 12, 2017.
Source: Minneapolis Police Department

The database includes data for Latinos, Asians, East Africans as a group distinct from African Americans, people considered other races and interactions with people for whom race is not recorded. The share of interactions in these groups were closer to proportional to the size of the populations they represent in Minneapolis.

What we can’t learn

So does that mean the Minneapolis police are engaging in widespread racial discrimination? Not necessarily. What looks like racial profiling can also be rooted in other socioeconomic factors that have their own complicated relationship with race, said Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law.

“At least one study in Texas suggests that stops tend to be concentrated on older model vehicles that are more likely to have problems with them,” he said. That would suggest traffic stops are connected to poverty, which in the United States, is highly correlated with race.

“Does the data show racial profiling or does it show a systematic and fundamental problem in society that relates poverty and race? It might show both.”

There’s also the matter that in many cases — about one in five of all interactions in the database, to be exact — the race of the person stopped isn’t listed. Knowing the race of the people involved in those cases could either exacerbate or mitigate any racial disparities.

Males were involved in 62 percent of instances in the database, while females were involved in 23 percent of instances and gender nonconforming people were involved in 0.2 percent of cases. In 15 percent of cases, the gender of the person stopped was listed as unknown.

A good start

After two high-profile officer-involved shootings in Minneapolis in three years, the first in 2015 resulting in the death of Jamar Clark and the second in July that killed Justine Damond, and the resignation of Police Chief Janeé Harteau, police reform has been a big part of the debate in city council and mayoral races this fall.

In a video on the site, new Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo says the police stop dashboard is part of ongoing transparency efforts (The Minneapolis Police Department did not make anyone available for comment for this story by deadline).

“I think future discussions will be a little bit deeper into so what is the data telling us in terms of our policing,” Arradondo said in the video.

With tensions between police departments and citizens running high, sharing data on police stops is a good sign for policing in Minneapolis, Stoughton said.

“This is hugely important for having an informed public discourse about what policing is and what it should be in a particular community,” he said. “You can’t have that conversation or at least you can’t have an informed conversation without having a bird's-eye view (of) what policing looks like in a community.”

But unless the department is also using the data to inform the way it polices, it may not lead to long-term change in the department that improve policing and bolster public trust, he added.

Having the dashboard up and running is a good start, Stoughton said. For a long time, “policing took the position that the agency and officers were best in the position to do their jobs when not hampered by excessive amounts of public attention,” he said. “That’s starting to change and that’s a really good thing because you can’t do policing effectively without public support and you can’t get public support unless you are either willing to share accurate information about policing or you can rely on the public’s inaccurate understanding of policing.”

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Comments (12)

Curious:

When getting stopped, usually, the police come from behind, Might be pretty difficult to tell race with the back of the seat between you and the officers eyes. Life styles, such as booming, running stop signs, open drinking and cruising, speeding, tire squealing, loud exhaust, litter etc. all tend to show a general disregard for common courtesy to your neighbors,as well as insuring your license plate light, head lights, are working are very common in this inner city neighborhood, when those become habitual, problems will surely arise. Ignoring the little stuff can get you into trouble with the bigger stuff. Just a perspective. .

Really?

That's what you're going with? Black people just go around "booming", littering, squealing tires etc., and the cops who can't see who is driving pull them over? My lord.

Yes!

Evidently you aren't seeing the bigger picture, Do you think some folks have dysfunctional life styles, don't care their race, relative to acceptable social norms? Do you get generational poverty? Do you think in a general way that single parent families that move every 6 months are as stable as dual parent that don't? (I'm sure we can all find exceptions to the trend) The general point is there are lots of contributing factors, and they all aren't racism. Folks are pretty blind to the social reality when they say, its all the police! If you have a life style playing back and forth on the tolerable legal edge, the probability increases that you will have a police interaction incident and yes, we know all the the police aren't color blind. Sorry, we don't live in a perfect world.

Perfect world???

Fair world would be a step up!

An often ignored fact

A lot of problems today that are perceived as "racial" are actually socio-economic. Not to say that racism doesn't exist, because it clearly does. But sometimes race is the knee-jerk reaction to a problem actually connected to poverty.

That is true

But doesn't explain all of it. My affluent and middle class black friends get pulled over a lot more than I do. Even black a Republicans get pulled over a lot more

https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5786bfffe4b08608...

Actually.... this quite revealing

Look, poor people aren't driving cars, they're on the buses and light rails. We have a double whammy here when the poorest minority with the fewest cars is ALSO the group being pulled over more. This is counter intuitive, there should be fewer black drivers to pull over (city wide) even if they're driving poorly maintained cars. When you see THIS level of disparity it HAS to tell you that profiling is the deciding factor.

We actually have the data we need to answer the questions we're being told can't be answered, you just need a decent statistician to run the analysis. Here's what you do?

Population numbers, i.e. racial census don't necessarily tell us what we to know, we aren't looking at how many blacks and whites there are in the city, we need to know who many blacks and whites are driving in the city on a typical when cops make 147 stops. The question isn't what percentage of the population are black, the question is what percentage of drivers on the streets are black. That can be estimated controlled in a statistical analysis.

The other factors that are mentioned such as poverty or income disparity can also be controlled for since we know those rates from the census. Sure, older cars may be a factor, but we can control for that factor statistically.

You could also factor out things like Somali drivers from non-Somali blacks.

We can create typical profiles for the different populations of drivers and run an comparative analysis.

However, on the face of it, since the percentage of EVERY type of stop (for black drivers) is almost double that of white drivers there's a pretty clear prima facie indication that MPLS cops are stopping black drivers far more aggressively than they do others. Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.

Perpetuating poverty and "crime"

Part of the problem is definitely poverty. Older cars often equal more physical problems. It's obvious, though, that this doesn't explain everything. I've seen some pretty crappy cars driven by white people that clearly NEED to be pulled over (including a vehicle that was so badly misaligned in the frame that it appeared to be driving in nearly two lanes at once. At 70+ mph on the freeway.) I would submit that equipment violation pull overs are more common in certain areas, and don't necessarily reflect the NEED to pull people over for equipment violations. I've driven in North Minneapolis plenty of times and, while there are a lot of older vehicles, their apparent functionality isn't much worse than the cars I see in my own neighborhood where I've never seen anyone pulled over for equipment violations. Including head and tail light issues, missing lights on trailers, destroyed suspensions (which are a huge hazard). I can literally drive a month with a headlight or taillight out and not get a second look from a cop. I've seen people drive past a cop with no lights on in full dark.

Cultural considerations are also not sufficient to explain the differences. If any thumping stereo is enough to get you pulled over, then I submit that every Harley rider, whose vehicle is far louder than any stereo I've heard, should have been pulled over many, many times. Also, window-vibrating bass is NOT unique to black drivers. It's pretty generically associated with being young and male, with very little to do with race. Nor is general "disregard for common courtesy" a black thing. Personally, I want to drag those guys who "roll coal" out of their trucks (none-too-gently) and make them wash my car, and apologize to everyone whose house was destroyed by a hurricane this year.

Sometimes I wonder if the cops do anything except respond to barking dogs in "white" neighborhoods, given all the moving violations I see going unnoticed by cops. Like the very Minnesotan (and I mean ALL Minnesotans) love of running red lights. And failing to use blinkers. The cops do it, even. There is NO WAY 40% of moving violations I've seen were committed by black people.

What all of the above suggests is that something is going on that isn't just poverty. Or "culture". Either the cops in "black" areas are WAY more strict, or there's something racial going on. Wait...both of those things suggest that the law isn't being applied equally. So, it would appear that something racial IS going in. The question then, is whether it's the system or whether it's the cops. Or both.

Back to the poverty issue. If we really aren't looking to make things worse, why not try to fix things? Instead of just writing a ticket for a "poverty related" violation (frequently headlights/taillights), why not write a ticket that can be fulfilled by fixing the problem? Maybe even partner with auto parts stores for discounts, and instructions for doing the work (no one needs to pay a mechanic for most of those issues). Part of the actual problem with multiple equipment violations is that the ticket exacerbates the problem by increasing the cost to fix it. It's just kicking someone while they're down. Better yet, why not have events where a person can stop to get minor issues taken care of on their cars for cheap or free? Bring your car and a cop will help you install a headlight.

Good questions:

Couple more: When are folks responsible for some of their own results? i.e. you got a car, who is responsible for the car? As another poster put it, there are some real junkers on the roads, perhaps not to safe either, if you are poor should you get a pass to drive a super junker because of your affordability? As some other folks put it, gets pretty twisty turning as you go down the rabbit hole. I agree there is some level of profiling, to think there isn't is ludicrous, we all do it. Guy walks down the street with a Viking shirt, can we make a small assumption he has an interest int he Vikings, or is that illogical? Upon further discussion/investigation, the guy is a packer fan, but lost a bet and now has to wear that jersey for a week! The norm or the outlier? Perhaps this week its more of a norm! Point is, we all live with a certain level of profiling, its part of our decision making process.

kudos for solutions - oriented thinking

like your thoughts about writing tickets that help. Reminds of a judge in Rhode Island who distributed what I'll label as common-sense justice ..... one lady owed fines for parking on a side walk, her daughter was with her .... she could pay the fines, but would have virtually no cash. Then he spoke to her elementary-aged daughter, who revealed she hadn't had breakfast. He dismissed the fines under the stipulation they go get some food. (easy to find on youtube ... seems authentic) .... think of the revelations out of Ferguson Missouri where the city, especially police, were using poverty crime revenue to pay their bills .... writing tickets that escalate because people can't pay .... it wasn't justice, it was bleeding the poor.

We need to take a different approach. You offer options worth considering.

A needed survey element

I would like to know the race of the police officers with regard to the race of people that the police stop. If race of the driver is not an issue, then the percentages of the race of the people stopped should be approximately equal between white officers and non-white officers. If there is wide disparity, then you need to study why the difference exits.

The other data we could use

Is what are the outcomes of all these stops? Back in the 90s when this kind of policing was promoted the idea was that cops would catch more bad guys this way, but what ended up happening was just cops harassing communities. So they make all these stops, and since we're not stupid we know that they aren't REALLY worried about the broken tail light, so are they pulling people over and capturing felons, recovering stolen items, or pulling drug dealers off the streets? Or are they just writing tickets for minor offences and moving on?

The idea that bad guys drive around in broken down cars or ignore traffic laws more than other drivers was always a sketchy proposition, so what's the real outcome and consequence of this kind of policing?