Black drivers are stopped at a higher rate in St. Paul than white drivers

27 percent of all drivers stopped were black.
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Black drivers are stopped at a disproportionately higher rate in St. Paul than white drivers, new data shows.

The St. Paul Police Department released 15 years of traffic stop data on Wednesday, totaling nearly 700,000 stops.

The data show that about 27 percent of all drivers stopped were black, despite the population of St. Paul being 15.7 percent African American. (Note: The Pioneer Press points out the percentage of black residents in St. Paul that are of driving age is about 13 percent, maybe lower.)

Here's a look at the number of traffic stops in the city, broken down by year and race:

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White drivers are stopped more than black drivers (about 38 percent of the roughly 700,000 traffic stops made since 2001), but they also make up more of the population – about 60 percent, according to 2010 Census data.

The data released Wednesday also includes information on the number of citations issued, vehicles searched, and drivers frisked – each of these were also broken down by race and gender, showing African Americans tended to be cited, frisked and their vehicle searched more often than any other race. (You can see all that data here.)

Why release the data now?

The St. Paul Police Department began collecting race data relating to traffic stops in 2001 as part of an agreement with the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP.

It's part of the department's effort to be more transparent and address any potential implicit bias issues, with Chief Todd Axtell saying in a statement that it will help the department and the community "understand what's happening in our city."

"We want the best police department possible, and this is an important step in the right direction," Axtell said.

The department also plans to update its record management system so officers can include reasons for why they stopped or searched drivers in instances where they didn't write a ticket, the release says. That's in addition to mandatory implicit bias training, reviewing traffic stop data with individual officers annually, and updating the traffic stop data ever year.

"Releasing the data is not the end of the discussion for our department,” Axtell said in the release. “We know there are real issues around equity and how it relates to housing, access to medical care, lending practices, employment, education, victimization and, yes, the criminal justice system."

Agencies try to be more transparent

The St. Paul Police Department is the latest agency trying to be more transparent in the wake of public outcry over racial bias in policing, and tensions between police and community members.

In September, the Minneapolis Police Department said it would start tracking the race of people officers interacted with, and will analyze and release the data publicly every quarter. Arrest data collected from nonprofits and other organizations shows Minneapolis police also disproportionately stop or arrest African Americans compared to their white counterparts.

The St. Anthony Police Department has been under fire in recent months as well following the death of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot by St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez back in July.

News outlets analyzed arrest data from the city to find that black people were disproportionately arrested, and on Thursday the Department of Justice is expected to announce a comprehensive review of the department, an email news release says.

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