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Boston to track all stops by police

By Francie Latour, Globe Staff, and Bill Dedman, Globe Correspondent, 7/20/2003

    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

Faced with department statistics showing that Boston police officers tend to warn more whites than minorities for the same traffic offenses, the department has decided to collect information on every interaction between police and citizens as a further safeguard against possible racial, or gender, profiling.

Later this year the department will become the first in the state to track race and gender information for every citizen encounter, whether on the street or during a traffic stop. The information will be collected on a revised version of a departmental form called the field interrogation or observation report.

As part of the state's racial profiling law, approved in 2000, the state has been collecting information on traffic stops from every police department in Massachusetts - but only when those stops lead to a ticket or a written warning.

Some police chiefs lobbied against documenting all traffic stops, saying the paperwork burden on officers would be too great. But police officials in Boston said they never opposed the measure, and the department's new tracking system will put it on a par with cities such as Miami and Los Angeles that already collect such information. The so-called FIO reports have always recorded race information, and are mostly used to gather intelligence on gang members and other criminal activity.

The new written reports, which Commissioner Paul F. Evans described in a June meeting with civil rights and minority leaders, will document the race and gender of every citizen who is searched, frisked, questioned, or observed on suspicion by a Boston officer. The information will be entered into a database so supervisors can closely track patterns in how officers conduct stops during patrols.

The department's spokeswoman, Mariellen Burns, said supervisors will undergo training on the new forms in the next month, but she did not know when officers will start using them.

In a letter inviting community leaders to the June meeting, Evans said the possibility of bias among his officers raises ``a profound concern to the Department.'' At the meeting, participants said, Evans acknowledged problems with racial disparities in traffic stops.

A Boston Globe analysis of state records found that, in almost every neighborhood in the city, whites were far more likely than minorities to receive written warnings instead of tickets when they committed identical traffic offenses. Boston police also were more lenient on women offenders than men.

The Boston Police Department's own findings echo the Globe's review. The department found that 46 percent of whites received a ticket when cited for a traffic violation. Meanwhile, 51 percent of Middle Easterners were ticketed; 60 percent of blacks; 61 percent of Latinos, and 63 percent of Asians.

The racial disparities were most pronounced in South Boston, where 26 percent of whites were ticketed, compared with 45 percent of minorities. Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, and the South End/Downtown area also showed significant disparities.

The city's numbers are based on 23,599 citations written by Boston officers in April and May 2001. The figures are not broken down by gender, and do not take into account the type of traffic violation. Criminal offenses were excluded.

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