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G. James Benoit

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April 7, 2007

Maryland Gazette - County police say there is no racial profiling here -  A departmental review of four years of traffic stop data found no evidence of racial profiling by county police officers, according to a new report.

"It seems to be balanced and moving in the right direction," said County Executive John R. Leopold, who asked Chief James Teare Sr. to review the data in January after an investigation by the Maryland Gazette found county police were pulling over a disproportionate number of minorities when compared with the county's demographics.

But local civil rights advocates, county councilmen and state officials are not ready to accept the report's findings just yet, saying they need more time to review the department's numbers and methodology.

"We haven't drawn any conclusions.

... We are trying to take a serious look at them," said Wayne Jearld, president of the Anne Arundel County Branch of the NAACP.

Councilman Jamie Benoit went a step further.

"It's a good start, but to answer the real question if racial profiling is happening in Anne Arundel County it is really useless," he said. "The police should really provide a better level of analysis."

Still, officials appreciated the county's efforts.

"I am encouraged the chief is willing to work with us," Mr. Jearld said.

The findings

The county's report focuses on whether the 127,487 drivers stopped between 2002 and 2005 lived inside or outside the county.

Department officials found that while 22.5 percent of all of the drivers stopped were black, only half of them lived in the county. They found that black county residents actually comprised less than 13 percent of the county traffic stops.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated blacks make up about 14.7 percent of the county's population.

The report also looked at the surrounding counties and found blacks make up 32.8 percent of the population in the region - including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Prince George's, Calvert and Howard counties and Baltimore and Annapolis cities.

"You have to look at the offender population," said Lt. David Waltemeyer, a county police spokesman, believing the regional population numbers offer a better benchmark for comparison since so many drivers come from outside the county.

Furthermore, Chief Teare noted that four beats covering predominately black neighborhoods are responsible for 14 percent of the county's traffic stops. He said that people in those communities - Pioneer City, Meade Village, Brooklyn Park and Maryland City - actually asked the department to send additional officers into the area for special traffic enforcement.

"This report concludes no patterns of racial or biased based profiling are evident in the analyzed ... data," Chief Teare said.

That said, he stressed the report cannot definitively account for all racial disparities during traffic stops.

"Providing a thorough analysis of interaction between these variables is beyond the scope of this project," he said.

More questions

The big question left unanswered - at least for most of the civil rights advocates and county councilmen - is what happens after an officer makes the stop.

"That's when the real bad, racist stuff happens," said Mr. Benoit, echoing similar concerns voiced by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Maryland Attorney General's Office. They want details about how long officers detain minority drivers during traffic stops and whether or not those drivers were subjected to more extensive searches than whites.

Lt. Waltemeyer said the department has analyzed its search data but hasn't finalized the report. He said Chief Teare is reviewing the data and plans to sit down with the NAACP before releasing it to the general public.

Carl O. Snowden, the Maryland attorney general's director for civil rights, and Councilman Daryl Jones also questioned why the department didn't have an outside entity do the research.

"It may have resulted in the report being viewed as more objective," said Mr. Snowden, specifically naming the Anne Arundel Community College's Criminal Justice Institute.

Lt. Waltemeyer said the department would be happy to have an outside researcher look at the data or conduct its own investigation, but said that could require additional funding from the county.

Mr. Leopold said he "always supports independent monitors," but said he would want to consult with the chief before spending any taxpayer money on another study.

Lt. Waltemeyer added the county already sends their traffic stop data, which the General Assembly mandated all police departments start collecting in 2002, to the state.

The data eventually is forwarded to the Maryland Justice Analysis Center at the University of Maryland. They compile an annual report, but conduct little analysis due to a lack of funding. All of the center's analysis is done on a statewide level.

"It's not usable for local jurisdictions," Lt. Waltemeyer said.

As is, experts actually praised the department's internal report.

"This is an excellent analysis by the Anne Arundel County Police Department," said Joel H. Garner, director of research at the Joint Centers for Justice Studies and co-author of a 2002 U.S. Department of Justice report on racial profiling.

He also said additional research is required too determine if county police are or are not racial profiling.

Internal reviews

While firmly believing his officers are not racially profiling during traffic stops, Chief Teare recognized the community still is concerned about it.

In response, he ordered Acting Deputy Chief David Pressley to speak to all patrol supervisors and reinforce the department's commitment to its established "biased based profiling" policy. He also ordered reviews of the department's training, complaint system and policy as a whole.

"The mere perception of biased based profiling threatens to erode (the community's trust in the department.) This is an issue the police department accepts as a matter of public importance, and is dedicated to taking all necessary steps to include the community in the ongoing discussion and analysis of this matter," Chief Teare said.

 
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