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Little by little, scope of police monitoring law is reduced

By Bill Dedman, Globe Correspondent and Francie Latour, Globe Staff, 1/7/2003

    On city boulevards and rural lanes, whites and women are far more likely to receive written warnings instead of tickets when stopped for identical traffic offenses, according to a Boston Globe study of newly released state records.


Police plan public meeting

Chiefs deny racial profiling

Civil rights advocates laud plan

Police chiefs decry study

Racial profiling is confirmed
Northeastern study [PDF]
Report summary
Who got a passing grade?
Police response [MS Word]

Police flouting 'no fix' law on tickets

Profiling study cites dozens of locales Charts
Northeastern study [PDF]

Reilly starts push to end profiling in police stops

Boston police to get tough on tickets

Judge: Suspect must stay in jail

Seeing bias, evidence tossed

Deeper look at profiling

Funding urged for study

Ticketing cited despite curbs

Romney backs profile tracking
People asked to join task force

Chief: Glitch caused error

Task force to review data


Day 1:
Race, sex, and age drive ticketing
Minority officers are stricter on minorities
Boston to track all stops by police

Who gets fined for speeding
Minority officers
Most-favored status
One officer's week

Ticketing whites vs. minorities
Large departments | All

Ticketing women vs. men
Large departments | All

Day 2:
Punishment varies by town and officer

How tickets raise insurance
Ranking the departments
Littering is worse?

Toughest on speeders
Large departments | All
Locals vs. out-of-towners
Large departments | All

Day 3:
Troopers fair, tough in traffic encounters

Frequent ticketers
How fast can you go?

Editorial: Tickets to fix
Op-Ed: Looking deeper
Op-Ed: Study proves nothing
Profiles in prejudice


Q & A
Secretary of Public Safety Edward A. Flynn, the senior law enforcement official in Massachusetts, spoke with the Globe about this series. Q & A

Detailed report
A closer look at how the Globe analyzed hundreds of thousands of traffic tickets.
Download study
This .PDF document requires Adobe Acrobat

Online chat
Globe reporter Bill Dedman chatted with readers about this series.
Read full transcript


In January, the Globe published the first results of its analysis.

Part 1:
Citations reveal disparity
Totals key to computations

Tracking tickets
Searches by race and age

Searching minorities more often
Ticketing their own

Part 2:
Police not pressed on race
Tewksbury cop is tops
Fridays worst for tickets
Scope of monitoring reduced

Where race was not recorded

Failing to record the race
Searching more cars

The Massachusetts law to monitor police for racial bias was whittled down in the Legislature, reduced further when state officials decided what information to collect, and cut back again when the state didn't type all of the information into the state database of traffic citations.

Now, with the state in fiscal crisis, the budget for the racial profiling law has been slashed by 98 percent - from $346,663 to only $5,750, said a spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety. That money was supposed to pay for typing traffic tickets into the state computer, and the state will still find a way to type them in, said spokesman David Goggin. But money for a public awareness campaign has been shaved in half. The state's antiprofiling telephone hotline will still be answered by voice mail.

Other states, including Rhode Island, have collected more information and made it available to the public more quickly, including information on every traffic stop, whether or not a ticket was written. The Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association supported the 2000 state law collecting information on every traffic ticket to monitor police for racial bias, but only after a provision was removed that would have required every traffic stop to be documented, whether or not police wrote a traffic ticket.

Police chiefs objected to the burden of more paperwork for police officers.

''One of the allegations we were hearing from people who testified,'' said the bill's sponsor, state Senator Dianne Wilkerson of Roxbury, ''was that they believed the very stopping was being used as a way to intimidate people of color.''

After the Legislature approved the law, it was whittled down further in its implementation.

The law called for a public awareness campaign about racial profiling, but the Legislature didn't allocate enough money for more than a few billboards and radio public service announcements, Goggin said. The state did add a note about racial profiling to the driver's manual, and set up a hotline for complaints.

Callers to the hotline, 866-6-RACIAL, hear a recording asking them to leave particulars of their complaint of racial or gender profiling. The recording cautions that complaints are not investigated by the state, but are passed on to the police department involved. Only about 20 complaints have come to the number, 866-6-RACIAL, Goggin said, with a brief flurry after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

''Although this law has been subject to the fiscal constraints the same as any state department, our attention to racial profiling has been elevated,'' Goggin said. ''After 9/11, we're working aggressively with the attorney general's office and civil rights groups to target profiling of Middle Easterners.''

Middle Easterners are a small share of drivers in the state, however, and the records show that blacks and Hispanics remain by far the most disproportionately ticketed, and searched, motorists.

The data collection itself was reduced when state officials redesigned the traffic ticket to collect information as a test for biased policing. The secretary of public safety at the time, Jane Perlov, convened a committee, including police chiefs and State Police officials, as well as representatives of the attorney general's office, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and the Boston Police Department, a university researcher, and the general counsel of the Chiefs of Police Association.

The committee rejected the idea of requiring police to fill out a separate form with detailed information, as other states have done, Goggin said. Then the Registry told the committe that its computers could not hold more than three characters of additional information for each ticket. There was room for only race, sex, and an indication whether the vehicle was searched, but no detail on what was searched for, or why, or whether it was found.

The available information dwindled further when the Registry decided that it didn't have the money to type in written warnings to drivers. Only tickets are recorded.

A study of the warnings could show whether whites are more likely to be let go without a ticket.

This story ran on page A9 of the Boston Globe on 1/7/2003.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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