NAACP seeks examination of Arundel data on traffic stops

July 24, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Traffic-stop data released recently by the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County police departments have renewed a discussion about racial profiling in the community.

Figures for early 2002 show that while traffic stops roughly paralleled the demographics of the city and county, black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested during a stop by Annapolis police.

The county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People plans to ask the Annapolis Human Relations Commission to examine the arrest data for evidence of racial profiling, said Carl O. Snowden, an NAACP member and assistant to County Executive Janet S. Owens.

"The whole purpose of the data collection is to see if there is a problem," Snowden said. "And when there is an apparent disparity, which there is here, we need to look behind the numbers."

Annapolis police Lt. Gregory Imhof said the number of arrests - 25 of 255 white drivers who were stopped during the first three months versus 32 of 151 black drivers who were pulled over - have a simple explanation.

"The officer had no choice but to make an arrest," he said. A suspended driver's license or outstanding warrant was the reason for an arrest about 60 percent of the time with black drivers, he said.

Local police departments began gathering traffic stop data in January to comply with a state law banning racial profiling.

The legislation grew out of a lawsuit alleging that Maryland State Police used race when deciding whether to search vehicles on Interstate 95 north of Baltimore. Part of the settlement of the suit has required troopers in the Harford County barracks to keep traffic-stop data since 1995.

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