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Reilly starts push to end profiling in police stops

By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff, 1/20/2004

    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

In an effort to eliminate racial profiling of drivers, Boston and Lowell police officials have agreed to work with state law enforcement authorities to track all traffic stops, and not just those that result in citations or written warnings, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly announced yesterday.

It is the first effort on the part of state and municipal authorities in Massachusetts to review and analyze all traffic interactions between police officers and motorists in the state's largest cities, and it will reveal who is being stopped and why, Reilly said.

The US Supreme Court has held that to justify a stop, police must show they had "reasonable, articulable suspicion" to pull the car over. However, studies in Massachusetts and elsewhere have found that blacks are more likely than whites to not only be stopped but also given a ticket rather than a written warning.

This week, state public safety officials plan to unveil a study, conducted jointly with Northeastern University, that looks at the race of motorists pulled over in all Massachusetts communities -- but only those who received a ticket or written warning.

Reilly said the new cooperative effort between Boston and Lowell will be more significant because it will examine the reasons for all vehicle stops, not only those for traffic violations.

"We've taken it a step further; we're not just going to look at citations," Reilly told about 2,000 people who gathered at the Sheraton Boston Hotel to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"We're going to look at why was the car stopped, and was race any part of that decision to stop that car," Reilly said. "In the end, we are going to do everything within our power to eliminate the practice of `driving while black.' After all, as Dr. King told us, the time is always right to do what is right."

On Friday, Acting Boston Police Commissioner James M. Hussey announced that his officers now will be strongly encouraged to issue tickets when pulling over motorists, which he said would reduce the potential for some segments of the driving population to be ticketed while others are let go with a verbal warning.

The measure was one of several that Boston police have taken in the past year since a Globe examination of traffic tickets showed that Boston officers were more likely to give written warnings to whites for the same traffic violations for which they issued tickets to blacks and Hispanics.

The state Registry of Motor Vehicles data scrutinized by the Globe, for April and May of 2001, showed that Boston police gave written warnings for speeding to white drivers 57 percent of the time, but only 47 percent of the time to minorities. The rest of those stopped received speeding tickets. In Lowell, a city of roughly 105,000, the data showed that minorities and whites both received tickets 91 percent of the time.

"We felt that it would be in the city's best interests for us to look at this issue and take it on head-on," Hussey said in an interview after Reilly's remarks. "We're willing to participate and collect data because we think that will be helpful to move forward on the issue in the city of Boston, because we have a commitment to our community to talk about this issue and to move forward on this issue."

Edward F. Davis, superintendent of the Lowell Police Department, said by month's end his agency will be able to track all traffic stops by logging information into the department's computer system as it comes in.

Currently, Davis said, Lowell officials have a difficult time distinguishing traffic stops made by patrol officers who witness moving violations from stops made by detectives or narcotics officers, who usually stop drivers for probable cause unrelated to motor vehicle violations. The new tracking method will remedy that problem, he said. It is not known if Boston can separate the data.

Davis, along with Hussey considered a top candidate for permanent commissioner of the Boston Police Department, said he has no idea if his officers routinely let motorists go with a verbal warning, and what percentage such stops make up of the total. "It's difficult to be precise," Davis said.

Reilly's announcement yesterday drew applause and praise from the audience. Several black people in the group said they had been stopped for no apparent reason while behind the wheel.

Eric Hill, an African-American from Dorchester and a US Army lieutenant who is due to ship out to Iraq on Saturday, said he has been pulled over without having committed a traffic violation a number of times, most recently on a trip through New Jersey.

"We're here to celebrate the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, and racial profiling goes against what Dr. King stood for," Hill said.

While many in attendance yesterday backed Reilly's initiative, several police chiefs in smaller Bay State communities have resisted pressure to track all traffic stops. They said that it is an unnecessary burden of paperwork and that monitoring those stops that result in tickets or written warnings is adequate.

Boston, Lowell, and other larger communities have been meeting separately to hash out new strategies to counteract community perceptions that minorities are being treated differently -- and worse -- than their white neighbors.

Under a new state law that seeks to eliminate racial profiling, Reilly and state public safety officials may require such tracking in towns where police ticket minorities disproportionately.

The study being released this week, then, could ultimately result in several more towns joining Boston and Lowell, Reilly said.

Globe correspondent Bill Dedman contributed to this report.

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