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Does race matter?

Are minority drivers in Bureau County more at risk of being pulled over and ticketed by law enforcement officials than their Caucasian counterparts?

Nine years ago, Illinois launched an effort to identify racial bias in police traffic stops. Under the act, police officers were required to record specific data about each and every stop, including total stops for Caucasian and minority drivers, reason for the stop, and the outcome.

The key number in the study is the ratio number, obtained by dividing the estimated minority driving population by the percentage of minority drivers stopped.

The Illinois Traffic Stops Statistics Study for 2012, otherwise known as Illinois’ racial profiling study, was released July 1. The report showed minorities driving in Illinois have a 19 percent greater chance of being pulled over by local law enforcement agencies than do their white-skinned counterparts.

That statistic comes from the ratio number, which rose from 1.16 in 2011 to 1.19 for 2012. A ratio of 1 would indicate that the percentage of minority drivers stopped by police is equal to the estimated minority driving population, while a ratio of 2 indicates that a minority driver is twice as likely to be stopped. In 2012, 70 percent of the state’s law enforcement agencies had ratios below 1.25, while 13 percent had ratios of 2 or greater.

Data supplied by Bureau County law enforcement agencies show local ratio numbers vary widely.

The DePue Police Department had the lowest ratio number with 0.42, followed by Wyanet with 0.62, Ladd with 0.79 and the Bureau County Sheriff’s Department with 0.88.

While above 1.0, the Princeton Police Department was still lower than the state average with 1.13.

Exceeding the state average were LaMoille with 1.22, Spring Valley with 1.42, Dalzell with 1.75 and Buda with 1.91.

The study also found minorities were more likely to get a ticket than Caucasians. In 2012, 59 percent of minority drivers stopped received a citation, compared to 51 percent for Caucasian drivers.

In Bureau County, agencies that gave a higher percentage of citations to minority drivers than Caucasian drivers were the Bureau County Sheriff (7.75 percent Caucasians ticketed/11.33 percent minorities ticketed), Spring Valley (13.37/18,03), Princeton (22.87/55.1), Wyanet (24.19/100) and Ladd (56.25/100.) While Wyanet and Ladd gave all of their minorities a citation, Wyanet stopped only three minority drivers and Ladd stopped two.

Dalzell, DePue and LaMoille ticketed 100 percent of the drivers stopped by those departments.

Ticketing a lower percentage of minority drivers was Buda, which ticketed three of the 12 Caucasian drivers stopped compared to neither of the two minority drivers.

In 2012, 923 law enforcement agencies submitted traffic stop data, down from 2011 when 984 agencies submitted data. There were 90 agencies that failed to comply including the Bureau, Cherry, Sheffield, Tiskilwa and Walnut police departments in Bureau County.

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