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Black motorists in Illinois stopped, searched more than other drivers: report

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State law enforcement agencies are much more likely to stop and search black drivers over routine traffic violations, a new report by the American Civil Liberties of Illinois found.

Police asked to conduct searches of vehicles driven by black motorists nearly twice as often as those driven by whites in 2017, according to the report. Police asked to search cars driven by Latinos 1.4 times more often those driven by whites.

At the same time, white drivers were found with contraband about 1.3 times more often than black or Latino drivers. The report, titled “Racism in the Rear View Mirror,” was released Monday.

“The data shows that law enforcement officers throughout the state of Illinois continue to stop black and Latinx drivers at rates beyond their representation in the driving population and continue to perform searches of black and Latinx drivers at higher rates than white drivers,” the ACLU said. “In short, biased policing continues to be a problem in Illinois.”

The report examined data collected by the Illinois Department of Transportation between 2015 and 2017 from more than 900 law enforcement agencies statewide. Police made about 6.5 million traffic stops and performed more than 283,000 searches in that time.

In certain cities, such as Aurora and Champaign, black drivers were stopped at rates more than twice that of the population of black people who lived there, according to the report.

The report also looked at police dog searches across the state.

Over the last three years, police officers conducted 15,494 car searches based on police dog alerts. Only about half of those searches resulted in police finding contraband in the car.

The Illinois State Police accounted for more than 20 percent of all reported police dog searches. In 2017, state troopers used dogs to sniff cars of Latino drivers almost twice as often as white drivers, even though police found contraband on Latino drivers less often than on white drivers, the report found.

“No law enforcement agency is responsible for the disparate impact of stops and searches of people of color — indeed, it is a statewide problem,” the report concluded.

In Chicago, the number of traffic stops more than tripled from 2015 to 2017, rising from 85,965 to 285,067 in 2017, according to the report.

Black drivers accounted for 61 percent of all traffic stops in 2017 in Chicago while only making up 31 percent of the city’s population, the report found.

The ACLU attributes the increase in traffic stops “resulted primarily in an increase in verbal warnings” to motorists stopped by police officers.

The release of the ACLU report coincides with the launch of a new website — illinoistrafficstops.com — that allows people to search and view traffic stop data for each law enforcement agency in Illinois.