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Police plan public meeting in response to troubling study

By Maria Cramer, Globe Staff, 8/8/2004

    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

Call it a forum. Call it a meeting, but do not call it damage control.

The Milton Police Department, stung in January by a Northeastern University study that showed its officers disproportionately stop minority drivers, will face the public this fall.

During a session that organizers hope will encourage residents to talk openly about their experiences with the department, Police Chief Kevin Mearn and others will answer questions about the research done on the state's police departments by the university's Institute on Race and Justice. The final report was released in May.

Mearn said the forum will not be about improving the department's image, which took another hit late last month when the Rev. Henderson L. Brome, a black Milton resident, was handcuffed by a police officer who was searching for a suspect in a car break-in.

"The purpose of the meeting is to have dialogue," Mearn said. "One has nothing to do with the other. One is not precipitating the other."

Opening communication with the public will increase trust in the department, he said.

"We work for the citizens of this town. We want them to have confidence in us," Mearn said. "We need them. If something happens, we need them to call us. We need the public's support to keep the town safe."

Last winter, soon after the state-sponsored study indicated minorities in Milton receive 58 percent of the tickets issued by police, even though they make up an estimated 16 percent of drivers, Mearn began meeting with community and religious leaders.

One of his most important contacts was with the Parkway United Methodist Church, which formed the Racial and Gender Profiling Task Force immediately after the study was publicized and started recommending reforms.

Most likely, the fall forum -- a date has not been set -- will take place at the church, which has a racially mixed congregation and attracts people from Stoughton, Sharon, Quincy and Randolph, as well as the Boston neighborhoods of Mattapan, Dorchester and Hyde Park.

The forum "is very important," said Ricka Marsh, chairwoman of the task force, and she praised Mearn for cooperating with the group.

"As a church group we feel it's our duty to speak up for the people who are unable to do it themselves," she said. "Wherever we see discrimination and injustice, we feel it's our duty to speak about the issue."

Jeffrey Stone, chairman of the Milton No Place for Hate Committee, said he wants to meet with the Board of Selectmen and Mearn to discuss how police treated Brome, an Episcopalian priest out on his morning walk.

But the fall forum should be about the study's results and any experiences people want to relate about dealing with Milton police, good or bad, Stone said.

"I think it's an excellent opportunity to talk directly with our police chief on the report," he said.

The final report in May showed that while Milton ticketed a disproportionately high number of minorities compared with the number of minorities living and driving in town, there was not enough data to determine disparities in two other areas: searches and issuing citations rather than warnings. Other agencies, including in Stoughton, West Bridgewater, and Quincy, showed disparities in all four categories.

"It wasn't as strikingly negative as the preliminary report," Stone said. "That doesn't mean we don't have some things to look at and possibly attend to."

Marsh was more concerned about the final study.

"I wouldn't say that the final result was better than the preliminary," she said. "It's kind of what we expected. We feel that it is discriminatory. It is illegal and it needs to stop."

Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute on Race and Justice, said police and community members need to be open-minded about the numbers they see on paper. Disparities do not necessarily point to racial profiling, he said.

"Is this disparity something that's causing problems with the residents, or is it something residents are happy about because it means people are being stopped?" McDevitt said. For example, a neighborhood plagued by speeding may welcome more aggressive police patrols.

"But in other neighborhoods, they may say it's causing more distrust of the police," he said. "The conversation has to continually be about how to enforce the traffic laws in the most fair and equitable manner."

Maria Cramer can be reached at

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