The Austin Chronicle

APD Releases Racial Profiling Report

By Jordan Smith, March 21, 2008, News

Due to patrol level vacancies, Austin police saw a 10% decline in traffic stops in 2007, Chief Art Acevedo wrote in the APD's annual racial profiling report, issued recently to the mayor and City Council. But the number of searches conducted was up, and African-Americans were subject to a disproportionate number of consent searches.

Because motorcycle officers were used to help fill the patrol vacancies, answering regular calls for service, the units were unavailable to handle traffic stops, and thus fewer citations were issued, Acevedo said. Overall, traffic and pedestrian stops were down last year to just over 178,000, compared to almost 200,000 in 2006. The number of searches conducted increased last year, however, with 15,957 searches compared to 14,632 in 2006. Most were conducted during traffic stops (63%), and the vast majority were pursuant to arrest or were otherwise provided for under law (62%).

APD conducted 373 "consent searches" – for which officers ask to search a vehicle or a person, absent any other legal right to search. These are the searches watchdogs review most carefully for possible indications of racial bias. The total number of traffic stops made last year roughly mirror Austin's demographics – that is, 47.5% white, 34% Latino, 9% black, and 6.5% Asian – but the percentage of blacks subjected to consent searches during a traffic stop remained disproportionately much higher. Blacks were 35% of those subject to consent searches during a traffic stop, whites were 33%, and Hispanics 31%. The same pattern exists for pedestrians subject to consent searches: Blacks accounted for 44% of the searches, whites for 38%, and Latinos only 16%.

Notably, the number of racial profiling complaints made to APD's Internal Affairs increased in 2007, with 11 formal complaints filed, compared to eight in 2006. The number is still small, considering the total number of stops APD made in 2007, Acevedo wrote in the memo to council. None of the complaints were "sustained and all the cases were captured on video," he wrote.

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