Racial Profiling Data and Study
The State of Illinois began a “study” of racial profiling in Illinois in January of 2004. At that time the collection of demographic data of all discretionary traffic stops and searches in Illinois became mandatory. The purpose was to determine if racial profiling is a problem in Illinois. The Alton Police Department is in full compliance with this law. The Alton Police Department has collected and submitted all required data.
The first set of numbers or statistics that are important in an attempt to determine if racial profiling is occurring is the raw data on the total number of traffic stops made by the Alton Police Department. Those stops are then broken down into the numbers and percentages of those stops that were conducted on vehicles with drivers of various races. That information is fairly simple and straightforward. It does not answer the question, “Is racial profiling a problem in Alton?”
2010 Alton Police Department Racial Profiling Study
2009 Alton Police Department Racial Profiling Study
In 2008 the Alton Police Department conducted 3827 discretionary traffic stops on vehicles traveling upon the streets of the City of Alton. The racial percentages of the drivers operating those vehicles is broken down below:
Alton Police Department Traffic Stop Data
Caucasian 2697 70.47%
African-American 1094 28.58%
Native-American 3 < 1%
Hispanic 18 < 1%
Asian/Pac 15 < 1%
We compared the traffic stop data to data drawn from department records. In addition we created two new studies or data collections. The first was designed to determine the racial percentages of non-discretionary police contacts. The second was used to determine the racial percentages of motorists operating vehicles on the streets of the City of Alton.
During the period from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008 the officers assigned to the patrol division were involved in 28,939 personal public contacts of a non-traffic and non-discretionary nature. These contacts include only persons contacted while responding to calls for service to which the officer was dispatched and does not include discretionary traffic related contacts. The racial percentages of the Alton Police Departments public contacts are listed below:
Alton Police Department Public Contacts
Caucasian 15,531 53.67%
African-American 13,331 46.07%
Native-American 5 < 1%
Hispanic 49 < 1%
Asian/Pac 23 < 1%
During 2004 the Alton Police Department conducted a traffic study designed to determine the approximate percentages of drivers of various races operating vehicles in the City of Alton. The studies or observations were done at varying times of day and different locations throughout Alton. During each observation, the race of every driver passing through the observed intersections was logged.
This study was hampered by several factors. First, all of the observations had to be done during daylight or early evening hours. After dark, it became nearly impossible to determine the races of most drivers. Window tinting, glare from bright sunlight and vision hampered by inclement weather added to the difficulty of keeping accurate counts during the observation periods.
Racial percentages of drivers operating vehicles in Alton (2004 Study)
Caucasian 11,582 68.4%
African-American 5,218 30.8%
Native-American 0 N/A
Hispanic 52 < 1%
Asian/Pac 51 < 1%
Traffic stops are a form of arrest in that subjects are detained for violations. The general result of a traffic detention is a traffic citation (State complaint) issued against the driver of a vehicle for an infraction of the traffic laws of the State of Illinois. The percentages of offenders in all reported offenses in Alton during the calendar year 2008 are listed below.
Racial Percentages of all crimes:
Native-American 0% 0.0%
Hispanic < 1% < 1%
Asian/Pac < 1% < 1%
Unknown Offender 4%
Racial Percentages of crimes when offender race is known
All Other Races 5%
While comparing the traffic stop data, we looked at two sources of community demographic statistics. The United States Census of 2000 and the School Year Report Card Summary for the Alton Community Unit School District #11. It should be noted that the census and its ability to accurately reflect minority presence in the community have been questioned. In addition, the Alton School District includes a large percentage of students outside the City of Alton. These students are from Godfrey, Foster Township and parts of Cottage Hills. The population of Godfrey in 2000 was 93.3% Caucasian and 4% African-American. The break down of those figures is listed below.
Alton School District (6,642 Total Enrollment for 2009 School Year)
2000 Census Data (City of Alton)
Others < 1% each race
Consent searches requested during the course of traffic stops were also tracked and compared. The baseline for comparison used was the percentage of total traffic stops by race in reference to the percentage of consent searches by race.
Total Consent Searches (2008)
3,803 total stops
16 consent searches
0.42% of all stops ended in consent searches
0.29% of all Caucasians stops ended in consent searches
0.13% of all African-Am. stops ended in consent searches
All other races N/A
Caucasian Drivers Search Data as a Percentage of Total Searches
70.5% of traffic stops
68.7% of consent searches
African-American DriversSearch Data as a Percentage of Total Searches
29.5% of traffic stops
31.2% of consent searches
A number of factors that we were unable to account for in this study could affect the percentages of drivers (by race) who are stopped. The department’s non-discretionary contacts were roughly 43% minorities. Most traffic stops occur during the course of patrol duties. Answering calls at minority households brings a high likelihood of drawing officers into areas more heavily populated by minority members of the community. The Weed & Seed program is designed to bring the City’s resources more heavily into areas affected by crime and poverty. In Alton, those specific neighborhoods are Mexico, Hunterstown and Middletown. Those are some of the neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of African-Americans in Alton. The Alton Housing Authority also receives extra patrols by this department. The housing authority is almost entirely populated with minority members of the community.
Alton Housing Authority Population Demographics
All Others None
The traffic stop data collected by this department does not indicate that racial profiling is occurring.
African-American drivers are stopped at a rate approximate to the rate at which they appear as drivers in Alton. African-Americans are stopped on a discretionary basis at a slightly lower rate than they are contacted on a non-discretionary basis. They are reported as offenders in traffic related offenses (officer discretion) at a lower rate than that at which they are reported as offenders in all other offenses (officer non-discretionary). African-Americans are searched at a rate similar to the rate at which they are stopped. That rate is similar to the rate at which Caucasian drivers are searched.