Black And Hispanic Drivers Are Increasingly More Likely To Be Stopped By Austin Police

Jan 30, 2020

While the black population in Austin hovers around 8%, black people made up roughly 15% of people pulled over by police and 25% of people then arrested in 2018 – a disparity that has worsened since 2015.

At the same time, white and Asian people were underrepresented in motor vehicle stops and resulting arrests, according to a report released by the city Thursday.  

Credit Office of Police Oversight, Office of Innovation and Equity Office

“The data really wasn’t a surprise,” said Paulette Blanc, chief of research at MEASURE, a nonprofit that uses data analysis to combat social disparities. “It was more a confirmation of something that we already knew was happening,”

The report from the city’s Office of Police Oversight, Office of Innovation and Equity Office used data on motor vehicle stops collected by the Austin Police Department between 2015 and 2018.

While there was a small disparity between the number or Hispanic and Latinxs pulled over and their population in Austin, the biggest discrepancy the city found was in data on police searches. Hispanics and Latinxs make up 31% of the adult population in Austin, but they represented 44% of people pulled over and searched by police in 2018.

Credit Office of Police Oversight, Office of Innovation and Equity Office

Police Monitor Farah Muscadin said her office worked closely with the police department in analyzing the data, and it was aware of the results. 

“We need more analysis to identify the why. I think it’s clear the disparities exist,” Police Chief Brian Manley told KUT. “But that’s not good enough.”

In a response to the report, Manley said he would like to have a third-party do another data analysis to better understand why these racial disparities exist. He pointed to a study done by Stanford University of Oakland police, where researchers studied body camera footage captured by 510 officers.

It found, like in Austin, black people were more likely to be searched and arrested after being stopped by police, so it’s unclear what another study would add.

The City of Austin’s report lays out its own recommendations for APD, including intervening when data show an officer appears to be over-policing black and Hispanic people, an idea Manley agrees with. It also recommends all police department employees receive ongoing racial equity training. (Police officers currently receive implicit bias training.)

“We now 100% know that there is a racial bias problem in policing, and the most important next steps are laid out: acknowledge that we have a problem, identify the officers most in need of interventions, expand implicit bias training, and report to Council how much our problem is costing,” Austin Justice Coalition Founder Chas Moore said.

The report comes as the police department is grappling with accusations of racism at its highest-level; the results of an investigation into a former and a current assistant chief are expected next month. In December, the Austin City Council voted for a wide-reaching investigation into alleged bigotry among police, including an audit of officers’ social media posts.

This story has been updated.