Houston police stops blacks more than any other racial or ethnic group, according to a report by the city’s police department.
According to the report, 33 percent of the nearly 494,000 people stopped in 2010 were African-American, despite Blacks comprising just 23 percent of the city’s population. Hispanics, totaling 44 percent of the population, nevertheless ranked behind African-Americans with 32 percent of the stops. Whites ranked third with 30 percent of the total stops.
Of those stopped, 16 percent of Blacks were ultimately arrested tying them with the city’s Hispanic population. Whites were arrested 18 percent of the time following a traffic stop.
Police officials told The Houston Chronicle that the numbers are skewed because more officers are deployed to patrol higher-crime areas, which are usually in minority communities. Gary Blankinship, president of the Houston Police Officer’s Union, told the Chronicle that the numbers may appear like racial profiling, but that’s not the case.
“I’ve never believed that you can identify racial profiling by collecting that data,” he said. “It’s just because there are so many outside factors that can skew the data. But it’s nice that they get it and report it, and they track these traffic stops.”
However, critics said the number of traffic stops is an issue in itself. Clete Snell, chairman of the University of Houston-Downtown Criminal Justice Department, said the increased patrols in minority neighborhoods allow for more opportunities to stop people who’ve done nothing wrong.
“If you’ve been pulled over by the police multiple times in a year and haven’t done anything wrong, that doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth about police,” Snell told the Chronicle. “It’s a source of angst with the minority population.”
The report noted that the Houston Police Department (HPD) prohibits racial profiling and has instituted policies preventing its practice.
“HPD has implemented policies prohibiting the practices, provided training to its officers, and instituted a process to monitor traffic stops,” the report stated. “Racial profiling violates both the legal and practical considerations necessary to effectively accomplish its mission.”