Black bicyclists are likely stopped by police more than white bicyclists, report says

It's likely that black bicyclists are stopped and cited more often for minor violations than white bicyclists.
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It's likely that black bicyclists are stopped and cited more often for minor violations than their white counterparts, a new report says.

The Bicycle Citations and Related Arrests in Minneapolis report, which the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition released last week, suggests it's "highly probable" black bicyclists in Minneapolis "face greater threats" of police stops than white bicyclists – especially for minor infractions like riding on the sidewalk or without lights.

The report looked at public data for bicycle-related citations and arrests from 2009-2015, which was used to find trends in who gets stopped: their age, race/ethnicity, reason, where, etc. etc.

The race data only comes from when an arrest was made – the City of Minneapolis didn't start tracking the race and ethnicity of people just stopped by police until September of this year.

“Even though we could not track race and ethnicity with citations, we got a fairly clear picture with the arrest data. We were particularly surprised by the amount of juveniles, many of them youth of color, that were wrapped up in arrests that started with a minor bike infraction,” project manager Melody Hoffmann said in a news release.

What the report found

Minneapolis police and University of Minnesota police issued 1,101 citations between 2009 and 2015 that the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition looked at for its report.

The 1,000-plus citations resulted in 158 incident and arrest reports (for example: the bicyclist was pulled over for riding on the sidewalk, but was then arrested for drug paraphernalia or loitering). The incidents involved 169 people who were either arrested or logged as suspects in the department's Computer Assisted Police Records System (CAPRS).

The report found that 15 percent of stops for a bicycle-related offense resulted in charges and outcomes "more severe" than just a citation. Of those arrested, 48 percent were black (see table below), even though only about 18 percent of Minneapolis' population is black.

Disparities exists, other reports have found

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition says because of limited available data, it wasn't able to confirm or deny the existence of racial inequities when it comes to bicycle-related stops and citations. However, the report says past studies have shown disparities among overall arrests in Minneapolis, which has the coalition concerned it exists among bicyclists as well.

Last year, an ACLU report found black people living in Minneapolis were 8.7 times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for a low-level offense, while Native Americans were 8.6 times more likely than white people to be arrested.

Metro Transit recently analyzed its citation data and found people of color were more likely to be ticketed instead of warned for fare evasion when compared to white passengers.

And the Minneapolis Police Department has acknowledged disparities in arrest rates, which is among the reasons the department began tracking additional demographic data when officers conduct stops.

GoMN has reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department for comment on this report. A spokesperson for the department did tell the Star Tribune it didn't have a comment because the department hasn't had enough time to review the report.

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition plans to discuss this report at a community meeting on Oct. 18 at Hope Community Inc. in Minneapolis. You can reserve a seat online here.

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