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Commission Wants Increased Analysis of APD's Racial Profiling Data

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Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

Austin is one of about two dozen large cities in the U.S. that collects and publishes demographic information about people who get tickets or are arrested as a part of the Police Data Initiative. It’s part of an effort to add transparency when it comes to thing like racial profiling.

Today, Austin’s Public Safety Commission will present some new ways the city can expand its efforts to further improve that transparency.

The Public Safety Commission has a couple suggestions.

Expand data collection to include those who are stopped, but not arrested – Right now, officials follow Texas’ Racial Profiling Law, meaning they publish the race of people who are cited or arrested.

According to the department’s 2015 Racial Profiling Report, law enforcement must:

  • Clearly define acts constituting racial profiling
  • Strictly prohibit engaging in racial profiling
  • Implement a policy by which a person can file a complaint, if they believe they have been racially profiled
  • Provide public education relating to the agency’s complaint process
  • Require appropriate corrective action to be taken against an officer who is shown to have engaged in racial profiling
  • Require collection of information (race and search) relating to traffic stops where a citation was issued or an arrest was made
  • Require submittal of annual racial profiling report

­Commission Chair Rebecca Webber says they should also collect data on people who are stopped and searched but not cited or arrested.

“We would all have a better picture of what’s going on in our city, if the data included those that are stopped and searched and then let go,” she says.

Increase resources for data collection and data analysis  – Webber, a partner at Hendler Lyons Flores, says the city should also make sure the Austin Police Department and the Office of the Police Monitor have the resources to collect that data and to analyze it. She says that could mean hiring a statistician to put the numbers in context. 

“Having more rigorous analysis and having more data to look at will help the police department look at it’s own training and policies and interrogate itself about whether or not it needs to make changes,” Webber says.

Austin is part of the president’s Police Data Initiative, an effort to improve police transparency after a series of police shootings sparked protest across the country.

But, this year’s analysis of 2015 data found a five-year trend of policing people of color most often in Austin. While the number of searches by APD officers dropped from 2014 to 2015, the rate of searches by APD among non-white Austinites saw little change, according to a March analysis of the numbers by the Austin Police Monitor.

The commission will also discuss budget proposals from APD, the Austin Fire Department and Austin Travis County Emergency Medical Services – in addition to hearing an update on the police department's body camera program, which will head to City Council on Thursday.

The Public Safety Commission's meeting starts at 4 p.m. You can stream the meeting on ATXN. Below, you can read the analysis of the department’s 2015 racial profiling data.

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