DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) The city of Davenport is taking a close look at traffic stop numbers and whether police officers are treating drivers of different races differently. The city has been working with several community organizations since 2011 after concerns were raised of racial profiling. The Davenport Citizens Advisory Committee consists of LULAC, NAACP and Quad Cities Interfaith. In a public meeting on Tuesday, those groups heard the most recent results of the study.
Professor Chris Barnam of St. Ambrose University presented the findings. Disproportionality is what’s actually measured, which tells whether one group is over represented in police data compared to benchmarks set by those conducting the study. Barnum says the trend for 2015 is that improvements are being made.
Compared to 8 or 9% in 2011, in 2015 officers stopped black drivers 5% more on average than benchmarks in the study. Those benchmarks come from analyzing traffic in each area of the city as well as census data.
“The trends have been going down in terms of disproportionality. In other words differences between the percentage of African-American drivers they stop and our benchmarks, which is a good thing,” said Barnum.
The study also found that white drivers are more likely to be issued citations than black, but black drivers are twice as likely to be arrested than white. Certain officers also stop more drivers of one color or the other.
“The fact that our numbers are low is like saying we’ve got a drug dealer out there who sells less drugs than anybody else. Wrong is wrong regardless of what level it is,” said Elder Daniel Teague, Director of Quad Cities Boots on the Ground.
Chief Sikorski says closer review of certain officers hasn’t found evidence of racial profiling. He also hopes to take a closer look at why traffic stops overall have declined steadily from about 12,000 in 2011 to just 7,100 in 2015.
“Does a study like this effect that? Does the scrutiny around the nation and those kinds of things on law enforcement does that have an effect on the number of traffic stops? There’s no way for me to really tell right now whether that’s a factor but that’s something I’m going to look into,” said Chief Sikorski.
Another factor in numbers going down could be that Davenport police began moving away from zero tolerance policing to more community-based policing a few years ago. Admittedly, police officials say it’s been a contentious change that not all residents are on board with. Moving forward, Davenport police will continue to collect traffic stop data to find trends and areas that need improvement.