Data released by Metro Transit reveals that people of color in the Twin Cities are more likely to be the cited by police for low-level offenses, such as fare evasion.
The report, summarized in a news release, highlights differences in how transit police are enforcing the law on trains, the light rail and buses.
Although it was found that serious crimes (felonies or gross misdemeanors) are "enforced consistently" irrespective of race, Native American and African American riders receive a disproportionate amount of tickets for minor offenses.
The report says Native Americans were 152 percent more likely than white riders to be cited (rather than warned) for first-time evasion; black adults were 26 times more likely to be cited than white riders.
Here's a look at arrest and citation rates by race.
"This study tells me that we have a problem," Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington told the Star Tribune. "I want our communities to understand that I know our officers are at their best when they act as guardians for all of our riders."
The American Civil Liberties Union published a similar study in May that claimed black and Native Americans disproportionately arrested for low level offenses by officers of Minneapolis Police Department compared to white people.
MPR has highlighted a few other findings in the report, which was based on all citable or arrest-worthy offenses (not just fare evasion), including:
- Black adults are 16 percent more likely than whites to be issued a citation by police — rather than merely warned about a violation.
- Native American adults were almost twice as likely to be arrested than whites.
According to the release, Metro Transit is taking immediate steps to address the issue, including: holding impartial policing classes, providing more training on how to deal with disabled riders, and looking at best practices while working to further diversify its ranks.
"This study demonstrates a clear and compelling need to investigate the reasons behind these disparities in our policing," General Manager Brian Lamb said in the release. "These disparities cannot be ignored and we must hold ourselves accountable. It is important that we work in partnership with our community to come to a deeper understanding of these statistics and how we improve our policing practices."
In October, a Metro Transit police officer lost his job two months after being accused of assaulting a teenager with autism at a light rail station in St. Paul – though it's not clear if that incident is what led to the move.