Why Traffic Stops Don’t Stop Crime

A new book examines the arrest data produced by police stops in North Carolina, and finds the public safety benefit was minimal. In a conversation with The Crime Report, co-author Frank Baumgartner says it should make police departments across the US reevaluate a practice that is often considered racial profiling.

Traffic stops represent one of the most common interactions between police and citizens in this country. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 42 percent of face-to-face contacts that U.S. residents had with police in 2011 occurred for this reason alone.

However, in the wake of the tragic shooting deaths of Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, Walter Scott, and others—all of which resulted from seemingly routine traffic stops—fears about the influence of racial profiling and police bias on these common, day-to-day policing practices have grown.

Suspect Citizens: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tell Us About Policing and Race, co-authored by Frank Baumgartner, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Prof. Derek Epp of the University of Texas at Austin, and fellow researcher Kelsey Shoub, statistically analyzes recorded traffic stops from North Carolina to discover the hard truth about similar accusations made in the state nearly 20 years ago, and paint a comparative picture for today.

In a conversation with TCR, Baumgartner explains how traffic stops have become an ineffectual tool for catching criminals, why the numbers found in North Carolina represent a systemic problem in law enforcement around the country, and how the argument of “a few bad apples” in policing falls short of reality.

The Crime Report: This book is the end result of a law passed in North Carolina almost 20 years ago that sought to find the truth behind suspicions of racial profiling in policing by collecting and analyzing traffic stop data. Can you explain how it got from there to here?

Frank Baumgartner: When the law was passed that mandated the data collection back in 1999, the law mandated that the state itself, the attorney general, or somebody in the department of justice for North Carolina, should issue periodic reports, every six months, to evaluate these allegations. The law was passed because there were allegations in the (state) General Assembly, essentially members of the black and Hispanic caucus, elected officials, who said they thought there was rampant profiling going on. It was part of a nationwide conversation about the issue of driving while black and brown.

North Carolina was the first state in the nation to mandate collecting the data, so those lawmakers deserve credit. They said that either we’ll put to rest spurious allegations or we’re going to validate these concerns and our police will take immediate steps to alleviate them. And none of that happened. Nobody ever issued a single report. So, when we got the data, and delved further and further into it, it pretty much validated all of those concerns of those legislators back in the 1990s. Everything they alleged and were concerned about, we can show is really true: two-to-one search rates; two-to-one increased likelihood of being pulled over if you are nonwhite.

TCR: Why was there no follow up?  And is this sort of inaction suggestive of a national problem?

FB: Nobody likes to have someone looking over their shoulder in their workplace, and these allegations were really quite troubling. They were about racial bias within the police forces and they were nationwide. I think it’s a hot button issue, the police agencies are very politically powerful, and this is a topic that a lot of police departments would rather not have in the public domain. It’s uncomfortable. I give a lot of police chiefs credit for engaging with the conversation.

It’s a tough conversation because they’re put on the defensive. So, I think it’s natural that people didn’t want to go there. But we had to. Even though it’s uncomfortable, we have to validate the fact that black and brown Americans are subjected to a quite different style of policing than white middle-class Americans. And if white middle-class Americans don’t understand that, then there’s a terrible empathy gap for the realities of people on the ground who are black and Hispanic. We have to understand how policing works in all of our communities.

TCR: How do traffic stops reflect an evolution in today’s policing that has led to a general increase in racial profiling?

 FB: In the 1960s and 1970s policing changed. It went from being more reactive, finding out that there had been a crime and then trying to hunt down the bad guy, solve the crime, and bring the perpetrator to justice, to a more proactive style of policing where the police thought they could solve the crimes before they happen by interrupting people who look like they might be up to no good. So, I think we developed a whole method and ideology in the profession of policing around an idea that they could keep us safe by interrupting criminal activity before it even happened.

At the core of that idea is the assumption that you can tell if someone might be involved in criminal activity just by looking at them. And that’s where racial profiling became such a concern. The magic of this system is that white middle-class people were unaware that the police were using visual cues towards young men of color and treating them in such a different manner. If you’re black or brown, you’re a suspect citizen right from the beginning.

TCR: How do police use traffic regulations to pursue this kind of biased policing?

FB: The method came out of hunches and seat-of-the-pants ideas that developed into accepted practices in policing. Back in the 1970s, airports were trying to develop profiles of who might be a hijacker and who might be a drug courier, and those are all based on appearances. Police then applied these to the highways.

The first sheriff to do this was in Florida. He kept getting his cases thrown out because judges all said he had no probable cause because he was literally just pulling people over because of appearances. That sheriff then went to the vehicle and highway codes and found that Florida highway laws gave him 500 reasons to pull someone over. He studied the manual and he studied the law and he found that there were so many technical violations of either the vehicle code, such as tinted windows or a crack on the brake light, or the traffic code, such as touching the yellow line, that you can be pulled over for.

The key decision by the U.S. Supreme Court was one that said that if you’re breaking the law you can be investigated. That means if everybody is speeding, then the police can pull over those who they want and say they pulled you over for speeding. Most people speed, so everyone’s open to a police investigation. Once they pull you over, and they start a conversation, they might ask for permission to search your car, and that’s where all the profiling happens. They really did have to find a methodology. The methodology of a traffic stop is fantastic because, if you’re driving a car, you’re pretty much opening yourself up to a police investigation.

TCR: According to your book, the logic behind this practice is that “you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.” How did such a general practice come about and is this defence of it valid?

FB: I think that it came to be used because of the war on drugs and the idea that there’s this incredible mania among the law enforcement community about the danger of drug couriers and drug kingpins. But the thing about kissing a lot of frogs, for one, is that it’s unfortunate that the police would think of citizens driving down the road as frogs. They’re citizens and they have the right to their own privacy and the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. I think that the idea was that thousands of people would be deprived of their constitutional right to privacy and to travel unimpeded in the hope that one out of a thousand or one out of a hundred might be found carrying some drugs. And the Supreme Court validated this idea.

The police said everybody has to pay a small price so we can all be safe, and the Supreme Court said that since it’s only a momentary inconvenience, it’s a reasonable price to pay. And that makes good sense if you are white and middle class, like most of the Supreme Court justices, and it might happen to you once every ten years. You’re not subjected to that many police pullovers, and certainly not to very many searches. But if you’re a young black or Hispanic male, you might be pulled over frequently. So, it’s not just a momentary inconvenience, it’s a consistent statement by the government that they suspect you of wrongdoing. So, that’s where we really wanted to make the case that the court system has kind of misunderstood this.

They’ve given the police the green light to do these dragnets and very large scale traffic stops, justified by the war on drugs and crime, but it’s a very inefficient use of time and a very big waste of police money that, in addition, alienates so many people.

TCR: What are the psychological effects on minorities from these continual stops?

 FB: Philando Castile, before he was killed in Minnesota, was in his early 30s and had been pulled over by the police, even in his short time as a driver, dozens of times. I’ve been driving since the 1970s, I’ve only ever been pulled over two or three times, and I’ve never been searched. So, if it happens to you once every 25 years, it’s true that that’s a momentary inconvenience.

But, if you’re just a young man of color, and you simply happen to fit a certain demographic profile that the police associate with crime, or if you just happen to live in a neighborhood where there’s more policing because there’s more crime, you might find that to be a routine occurrence. And when you know that it was a pretext, and you really weren’t driving in an unsafe manner, it teaches you that you are not a full citizen, that the police think of you as a potential criminal. And that’s a harsh lesson for a young man to learn.

TCR: When it comes to tragedies like Philando Castile, there is always the argument that it happened because of a “bad apple.” How valid is that argument?

 FB: It’s valid, but it’s incomplete. We found that there were a lot of officers who had statistical patterns that are really quite troubling and I can tell you that I think some of them lost their jobs after their chiefs had seen some of this data. But, that’s not the whole picture, the entire system of racial profiling or disparate outcomes of traffic stops cannot be put at the feet of just a few bad apples, it’s really much more systemic.

Even when we take the bad apples out of the equation or we control for them statistically, we still see dramatic differences in how white and black drivers are treated, even when they’re treated by officers who are not the bad apples. We identified about a third of all officers as having more than a two-to-one ratio of searching black drivers compared to whites. So there are systemic, institutional patterns that are widespread, and then there are a lot of bad apples.

TCR: How does the level of officer discretion contribute to this problem?

FB: I keep thinking, I’m a college professor, and I think there are a lot of us in public service who are supposed to follow rules. Imagine you’re a third-grade teacher, and you teach reading. It’s not optional whether or not to cover certain parts of the curriculum. Principals and other supervisors are going to be pretty hands-on in making sure that all the third-grade teachers in the school are teaching the same curriculum. You have good teachers and bad teachers, easy teachers and hard teachers, but still the curriculum is the curriculum. Policing is really not like that. The disparities in behavior that we see from officer to officer are shocking. It is not particularly a racial thing, but a dynamic of the great degree of freedom and discretion that an individual police officer has. I think that’s an important characteristic of policing as work. It’s a decentralized workplace; it’s really hard for supervisors to monitor exactly what employees are doing.

Frank Baumgartner

Frank Baumgartner

As it turns out, when we looked at …the cases where they pulled someone over for speeding and the percentage of times they gave a ticket rather than a warning, the number goes from 0 percent to 100 percent, from to A to Z. It’s shocking how much variability there is in the outcome of a traffic stop based on who’s the officer. Some officers never search anybody, and some search 30 percent of the people they pull over. Some officers never make an arrest and some arrest 10 percent of the people they encounter. There’s a huge difference.

TCR: What are the different kinds of searches police can engage in?

FB: Essentially, if a police officer develops the idea, based on the situation, that there’s a probable cause that the individual is engaged in a crime or hiding contraband, then the officer has the legal right to search that individual and bring them into custody if they don’t agree. Let’s say they see what appears to be a gun, then they have probable cause to believe you have a concealed weapon and they don’t have to ask your permission to search you.

If they don’t have probable cause, then their only way to do a search is to ask the driver if they have drugs in the car and if they can search the trunk. And it’s your constitutional right to say no. But, of course, it’s very intimidating when an officer with a gun says I’d like to search your car. It technically has to be phrased in the form of a question, but that can be done in a way that’s quite intimidating.

TCR: Are there ways to tackle this issue of potential intimidation?

FB: One of the most effective reforms that we found in North Carolina was that some cities mandated the use of a written form. It says, “I hereby voluntarily consent to have my car searched and all of its belongings, and here’s the password to my iPhone because I understand that’s going to be searched as well.” And, of course, nobody signs this form. Once you lay out your constitutional rights to privacy, and you lay out that the officer does not have probable cause and he’s just asking for permission, nobody signs that form. It’s a very effective protection of people’s constitutional right to privacy.

The counter-argument is that this will lead criminals to go free. So, we looked at that very carefully and, essentially, our analysis of all these traffic stops shows that they just don’t catch many criminals. It’s better for the police to just enforce the speeding laws and pull people over who are drunk driving, running through stop signs, and driving dangerously than to use the vehicle code as an excuse to fight the war on drugs. It’s just not very efficient.

TCR: Aside from consent forms, what else needs to be done to create a change?

 FB: Our main proposal is that the traffic police should focus on traffic safety. Don’t use the vehicle code as an excuse to fight a war on drugs or a war on crime more generally. It’ll keep us all safer if you do that and it will reduce the probability that a police officer is going to just make a pretextual traffic stop just because he doesn’t like the look of somebody, and use the traffic rules as excuses to do a police investigation. That’s contrary to our basic American freedoms, and it’s not effective.

Second, de-emphasize the regulatory and equipment failure traffic stops, all these traffic stops that are used as a pretext to get to talk to somebody, and, instead, emphasize ones that are truly related to safety. The problem with these equipment failure stops is that they bring poor people into contact with the police more commonly than wealthy or middle-class people. Middle-class people are less likely to have expired tags or bald tires because money is not a barrier to getting their inspection sticker. But poor people might be in that situation on a much more routine basis because they just can’t afford to get their tires replaced. Now that’s fair when a vehicle becomes dangerous to drive, but many of them are pretexts to pull a person over and see if they’re carrying drugs. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

We found that police don’t find contraband very often, even when there’s a probable cause search, and when they do find something it’s usually a very, very small amount, so little that they won’t even arrest the person in a typical case. It’s not a cache of guns, or a stack of money. Which calls into question the public safety benefit of all these millions and millions of traffic stops.

TCR: What do you say to those who may claim that this is just a North Carolina problem?

FB: Well we have a paper where we’ve been gathering data. We’ve collected all the data from the statewide databases for Illinois, Maryland, and Connecticut. We’ve looked at other cities and state highway patrol agencies who’ve made their data available. We’ve found the same patterns, and actually much more serious patterns in the Chicago area.

Isidoro Rodriguez

If you remember the DOJ report on Ferguson, Missouri, they did an in-depth analysis of all the troubles in that community and one part of their report was looking at the traffic stops and the searches that resulted from them. And in Ferguson they were concerned by a 70 percent disparity: black drivers were 1.7 times likely to be searched. That’s below the average for North Carolina. Ferguson was an outlier, a tinderbox, in terms of racial resentment between the community and police department, and they only had a 70 percent disparity.

North Carolina is not a hot spot of racial disparity, (but) we find these same things all throughout the country. The state is not peculiar. It is quite generalizable. We should all look at this and try to understand that there is a reason for this resentment. We should take that seriously and police departments should look and see if these policies are really worth the trouble.

Isidoro Rodriguez is a contributing writer to The Crime Report, specializing policing issues. He welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How NYC Trains Police Officers On ‘Implicit Bias’

All New York City police officers are being trained via a $4.5 million contract with Fair and Impartial Policing, a Florida company. Lorie Fridell, a criminologist at the University of South Florida who runs the firm, said the training is not meant to cure officers of biases, but to teach them to be aware of moments when an acquired bias surfaces, so that it can be managed. 

While explicit bias remains part of the fabric of life in the U.S., elected leaders and chiefs of police have increasingly focused on implicit bias, inherently unintentional yet more pervasive. In policing, the consequences of such bias can be dire. If officers rely on stereotypes instead of facts, routine encounters can escalate or turn deadly. This year, the New York Police Department began a training program on implicit bias that is one of the pillars of the de Blasio administration’s police reform efforts, reports the New York Times. All members of the department will be trained via a $4.5 million contract with Fair and Impartial Policing, a Florida company that is a leading provider of such training.

It is one of the biggest contracts to the for-profit training company, and no one can be certain of its effectiveness. Patricia Devine, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin who studies prejudice, is troubled by the spread of such training in the absence of objective research. She said more study of officers’ unintentional biases is necessary to evaluate how training can affect their behaviors. The New York Police Department would not permit a reporter for the Times to observe the training. Noble Wray, part of Fair and Impartial Policing’s training team, tells students about how as an officer in Madison, Wi., he would hear comments that betrayed bias toward black officers like himself. Lorie Fridell, a criminologist at the University of South Florida who runs Fair and Impartial Policing, said the training is not meant to cure officers of biases, but to teach them to be aware of moments when an acquired bias surfaces, so that it can be managed. “The key to this training is your behavior,” she said. “We need to make sure your behavior is not biased.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

FL Prosecutor Race Bias Examined by Newspapers

Among 100 cases handled by one Jacksonville prosecutor, blacks received sentences that were nearly four times as long on average as those handed down to white offenders. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune and Florida Times-Union looked into racial bias by prosecutors and other criminal justice officials.

Prosecutor Christine Bustamante in Jacksonville, Fl., handled hundreds of cases that sent away black drug offenders for three times as long as whites. In 2015 and 2016 alone, among more than 100 felony drug cases, blacks received sentences that were nearly four times as long on average as those handed down to white offenders. That put her at the top of a list of Duval County prosecutors with the widest racial disparities in sentencing for felony drug crimes, found an investigation by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Florida Times-Union.

Academics and judges argue that prosecutors are the most powerful players in the criminal justice system and most to blame for bias. The newspapers set out to measure the influence of other players in the criminal justice system on cases prosecuted by Bustamante. Those players include two powerful judges she appeared before; her former boss, Angela Corey — regarded as one of the nation’s toughest prosecutors, and the  Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which heavily polices minority communities. Bustamante, who resigned last year, disputed the newspapers’ analysis and suggested that outside factors — especially decisions made by judges, may have affected her numbers. The question of why black and white defendants are treated differently remains, cutting to the heart of the debate over who’s responsible for racial disparities in Florida’s criminal justice system.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Cops Killing Unarmed Blacks Has Mental Health Impact

A study finds that police killings of unarmed black Americans contribute nearly two additional days a year in which a black person suffers some mental health toll. The study found no such effect on the mental health of whites, nor did blacks report this kind of distress over police killings of armed black suspects.

When an unarmed black American dies at the hands of police, the emotional impact reverberates so widely that blacks who don’t even know the victim report distress, anxiety and depression, creating a national mental health burden nearly comparable to the stress caused by a chronic illness like diabetes, reports Philly.com. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, and Harvard University analyzed data from a nationally representative survey covering more than 100,000 Americans for the study, published Thursday in the Lancet. They found that on average, police killings of unarmed black Americans contribute nearly two additional days a year in which a black person suffers some mental health toll. The study found no such effect on the mental health of whites, nor did blacks report this kind of distress over police killings of armed black suspects. “I wasn’t so much surprised by the findings as I was saddened,” said Atheendar Venkataramani, a study author from Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Hearing of an unarmed person dying in a police shooting, he said, may signal to others that they, too, could be vulnerable to violence through no fault of their own. “Events that communicate to people that maybe they are worth less or their lives are not valued can influence people’s health,” Venkataramani said. For Reuben Jones, a Philadelphia native and director of the nonprofit Frontline Dads, the findings quantify his life experience. “Police killings remind you of your own mortality,” he said. “Even the most simple police stops can end your life.” In the U.S., an unarmed black person is three times more likely to be shot by police than an unarmed white person, and in the last three years, more than 70 unarmed black people have been killed by police, according to a Washington Post database that tracks fatal shootings.

from https://thecrimereport.org

San Diego PD Prepares for New Anti-Profiling Protocols

The department, which has been criticized for racial bias in its traffic stops, is preparing to comply with a new state law that takes effect on July 1. It mandates collection of detailed data on all officer interactions with the public in an effort to study and curb racial profiling.

San Diego police are preparing for a new statewide initiative to reduce racial profiling by conducting officer training sessions, adding new data-collection software and amending Police Department policies, reports the city’s Union-Tribune. The efforts come more than two years after a university study of traffic stops found racial disparities in how San Diego police handle traffic stops, particularly vehicle searches. State law requires large police departments on July 1 to start collecting more rigorous data about officer interactions with the public in an effort to study racial profiling trends and find ways to curb the practice. The law requires San Diego police to sharply expand which kinds of interactions they document and what elements of each interaction they need to record and submit to their superiors and state officials.

Officers have been attending mandatory training sessions this spring, and the department recently decided to use a data collection system created by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Two groups of officers, the gang unit and the neighborhood policing unit, have begun collecting the required data as pilot projects to help the department work out any kinks before July 1. Officers will start collecting the required data, including as many as 60 pieces of information from each interaction, on June 27.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Party Affiliation of Judges Can Determine Sentencing Length: Study

GOP-appointed judges hand down longer sentences to African Americans than whites for similar offenses, according to a study by two Harvard professors.  They argue the current polarized political climate in judicial politics is a “source of persistent racial and gender disparities.”

The political affiliations of judges contribute to racial and gender federal sentencing disparities, according to a forthcoming study in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

The study found that Republican-appointed judges sentence black defendants three months longer than they do for non-blacks, and female defendants two months less than males, who committed similar offenses, compared to Democratic-appointed judges.

The researchers by two Harvard Professors of Law, Alma Cohen and Crystal Yang, used data from 1999-2015, analyzing over 500,000 federal defendants, and 1,400 judges. They found these disparities account for 65 percent of the baseline racial sentence gap, and 17 percent of the baseline gender sentence gap.

“Our findings suggest that judicial politics may be a source of the persistent racial and gender disparities in the federal criminal justice system, and that politics may play an even larger role today under the current state of increased sentencing discretion,” the authors said.

The authors went on to note that since the federal justice system is the “source of the largest and fastest growing prison population,” the appointment of federal judges is a critical contributing factor in racial disparities.

The study quotes other researchers as saying, “Seldom has (judicial selection) seemed more acrimonious and dysfunctional than in recent years.”

Earlier research indicates that black defendants receive harsher sentencing than similar white offenders, the authors say, and that male defendants are given substantially higher sentences than similar female offenders.

Research cited by the authors also indicates that Republican-appointed judges give longer sentences for the same crime than Democratic-appointed judges. This study builds off these studies and applies it to racial and gender sentencing gaps.

Lower federal judge appointments have gotten more attention in recent years as a result of the increasingly polarized political climate.

Judges are confirmed unanimously less often now, and appointments are more fervently debated among senators on different sides of the political spectrum.

An important factor the researchers analyzed was the effect of a Supreme Court decision in 2005, United States v. Booker, which gave judges more discretion in sentencing. Before Booker, judges were mandated by the United States Sentencing Commission to use the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

This mandate applied to all federal offenses committed after November 1, 1987. After Booker, the guidelines were ruled as advisory, as opposed to mandatory.

“Republican-appointed judges sentence black defendants to 4.7 months longer in prison relative to non-blacks compared to their Democratic counterparts in the post-Booker period, a doubling of the gap prior to Booker,” the study said.

Additionally, the gap increased post-Booker because Democratic-appointed judges reduced their sentencing for Black offenders compared to non-black offenders.

The researchers also found that the sentencing disparities were substantially larger for more severe crimes, and that, “the magnitudes of the gaps are twice as large among the more serious offenses.”

The study also found a number of other disparities in sentencing. Defendants who are non-U.S. citizens receive longer sentences than U.S. citizens, and defendants with more dependents receive longer sentences that defendants with fewer dependents.

Additionally, “Defendants who plead guilty and defendants with higher education receive lower sentences than their respective counterparts.”

The researchers also detail how prosecutors factor into sentencing disparities when it comes to charging and plea bargaining. They found that prosecutors can adapt their initial charges or plea bargain offers, based on their prior knowledge of the judge and his affiliations or propensities. This is called bargaining “in the shadow of the judge.”

The study also stated, “Prosecutors are significantly less likely to offer substantial assistance motions to black defendants relative to non-black defendants, while they are more likely to offer substantial assistance motions to female defendants relative to male defendants.”

The researchers note that while prosecutors do have a substantial effect, their data still indicates that judges play an important role in sentencing disparities.

This summary was prepared by Dane Stallone, a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How to Desegregate America

Too many black families still suffer from the consequences of racism– conditions that undermine upward mobility and perpetuate unacceptable levels of poverty, crime and other social ills, according to Project 21, a network of black leaders from across the nation, in a report released Wednesday.

New legislation is needed to prevent racial discrimination that still dominates the lives of minorities, one advocacy group argues.

Unfortunately, too many black families today suffer from a non-racial scourge – conditions that undermine upward mobility and perpetuate unacceptable levels of poverty, crime and other social ills, according to Project 21, a network of black leaders from across the nation–a program of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

“The vaunted social safety net has become a web that ensnares black families in a vicious cycle of dependency, ” the authors of “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America” said.

They listed the following steps required for desegregating America:

Promote K–12 Educational Choice: Establish federal needs-based vouchers funded in part through an IRS 1040 voluntary donation check-off. Improve school security through upgrades in entry doors and by allowing trained school personnel access to guns.

Improve Higher Education: Require schools to meet minimum graduation rate standards for both general and minority student populations to be eligible for federal student financial aid. Establish tuition caps for schools participating in student financial aid programs.

Reduce Black Unemployment: Abolish the Jim Crow-era Davis-Bacon Act; initiate a second wave of welfare reform with work requirements and waive the minimum wage and collection of FICA for younger workers in special low-income areas.

Strengthen Faith-Based Communities: Establish federal Tax Credit Scholarships; repeal the Johnson Amendment; create a tax credit for families paying for nursery-12 fees and tuition and ban abortions performed exclusively on the basis of fetus ethnicity.

Promote Self-Determination: End fraudulent election practices that dilute black votes. Require proof of citizenship to register; vigorously prosecute those who target minority communities for fraud and prohibit the mailing out of ballots that haven’t been requested.

Improve the Relationship Between Police and Black Communities: Get police out of the regulation business; disarm federal agencies and transfer the resources to support police community outreach programs; increase use of body cameras; provide training to police in identifying people with autism; end gun bans and put police in charge of safety training.

End Excessive Regulation: Require “Minority Impact Assessments” for new regulations.

Stop Wealth Transfer From the Poor to Non-Citizens: Bar illegal aliens from using public services, except in emergencies.

Reduce the Economic Harm of Excise Taxes: Repeal federal, state and local sin and gas taxes, all of which have a disproportionate negative impact on low-income families.

Reform the Criminal Justice System: Require convictions for assets to be forfeited; prohibit incarceration for fine-only misdemeanors; require fines and forfeitures be transferred to general funds instead of enforcing agency budgets and consider ability to pay in levying fines.

The following suggestions, authors argued, will remove barriers blocking blacks from reaching their full potential and ensuring the American dream is attainable for all.

A full copy of the report can be found here

This summary was prepared by Megan Hadley, a reporter for The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments. 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Race Disparities in Kansas City ‘Economic-Based’ Tickets

Blacks make up 30 percent of Kansas City’s population but get 60 percent of traffic tickets. Most of them are not for driving offenses.

Larena Bryant, a black woman in Kansas City has 26 outstanding traffic tickets. She’s not necessarily a bad or unsafe driver. In 2017 alone, Bryant was stopped seven times and cited with 13 traffic tickets by the Kansas City Police Department — five tickets for no insurance, six tickets for driving on a suspended license and two tickets for expired tags, the Kansas City Star reports. “Now it’s pay this ticket or pay this light bill,” she says. “It’s pay this ticket or pay this rent. It’s adding another bill on top of what I already have.” Her ordeal highlights the hardships faced by thousands of Kansas City, drivers particularly poor African Americans suffering from a deluge of problems caused by traffic tickets. The tickets pile up, burying already poor residents under a mass of fines and creating a financial pit few are able to pull themselves out of.

The Star analyzed traffic tickets from 2017 and found significant racial disparities. Of the traffic tickets given to Kansas City residents, 60 percent went to African Americans, who make up 30 percent of the population. Thirty-seven percent of tickets went to whites, who make up 59 percent of the population. Speeding is overwhelmingly the top traffic offense, except for African Americans. The top traffic ticket charge for African-Americans is “state license plate required,” followed by “no insurance” and then speeding. Stacy Shaw, founding partner of a law firm specializing in traffic cases, says the majority of 8,000 traffic-related cases her firm has handled dealt with violations stemming from failure to pay insurance, licensing or tag fees. “These are economic-based crimes, they’re not poor driver crimes,” Shaw says.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Starbucks Arrestees Settle With Philadelphia For $1

The chief executive officer of Starbucks will mentor the two black men who were arrested at the coffee chain’s location in downtown Philadelphia last month, after the men reached a settlement with the company and the city. Starbucks didn’t disclose how much it will pay the men, but the company’s CEO will mentor them.

The chief executive officer of Starbucks will mentor the two black men who were arrested at the coffee chain’s location in downtown Philadelphia last month, after the men reached a settlement with the company and the city, ABC News reports.  Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson will now “have a seat at the table,” their attorney, Stewart Cohen, told “Good Morning America.” The mentorship with Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson comes as Philadelphia agreed to create a $200,000 fund for a pilot program that, through the help of a nonprofit, will assist Philadelphia public high school students who aspire to be entrepreneurs.

“We took a negative and turned it into a positive,” Robinson said. The 23-year-old entrepreneurs went to the Starbucks in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood to meet with a potential business partner on April 12. Nelson asked to use a restroom but was told it was only for paying customers. When the pair declined to order anything, they were arrested and taken handcuffed to a police station. The men decided not to pursue a lawsuit against Philadelphia and released the city from all claims for a payment of $1 each. The dollar amount that Starbucks settled for was not disclosed.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Memorial to Lynching Victims Opens in Alabama

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened on a six-acre site overlooking the Alabama State Capitol.  It is dedicated to the victims of American white supremacy, marking the lynching of thousands of black people in a decades-long campaign of racist terror. Civil-rights lawyers have documented nearly 4,400 killings.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opens Thursday on a six-acre site overlooking the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, the New York Times reports. It is dedicated to the victims of American white supremacy, marking the lynching of thousands of black people in a decades-long campaign of racist terror. At the center is a grim cloister, a walkway with 800 weathered steel columns, all hanging from a roof. Etched on each column is the name of a county and the people who were lynched there, most listed by name, many simply as “unknown.” The circumstances of individual lynchings are described in brief summaries along the walk. Among them are Parks Banks, lynched in Mississippi in 1922 for carrying a photograph of a white woman; Caleb Gadly, hanged in Kentucky in 1894 for “walking behind the wife of his white employer,” and Mary Turner, who after denouncing her husband’s lynching by a white mob, was hung upside down, burned and sliced open so that her unborn child fell to the ground.

Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, the nonprofit organization behind the memorial, said that many of the victims “have never been named in public.” Stevenson and a small group of lawyers spent years immersing themselves in archives and county libraries to document the thousands of racial terror lynchings across the South. They have cataloged nearly 4,400. Inspired by the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, Stevenson decided that a single memorial was the most powerful way to give a sense of the scale of the bloodshed. Also at the site are duplicates of each steel column, lined up in rows like coffins, intended to be sent to the counties where lynchings were carried out

from https://thecrimereport.org