IDOT study finds Galesburg police may be using racial profiling in traffic stops


by Mike Kroll


On July 3rd the State of Illinois released the results of its second annual study of racial profiling during police traffic stops. In a press release dated the same day Governor Rod Blagojevich lauded the overall dip in minority stops (albeit slight) statewide. Blagojevich has promised to extend the study, originally a three-year study administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, beyond the currently scheduled 2007 completion. Senate Bill 2368, supported by the governor would extend the study three additional years.

In Galesburg the data also show that minorities are more likely to be stopped by police and more likely to be ticketed. Data show that the Galesburg police made 2067 tracfic stops during 2005 and issued 1027 citations. IDOT estimates minority drivers makeup 15.46 percent of Galesburg drivers but the data show they account for 20.75 percent of Galesburg traffic stops. The 84.54 of white Galesburg drivers account for a disproportionately low 79.25 percent of traffic stops and receive tickets 47.74 percent of the time. Minorities are ticketed in 57.11 percent of traffic stops and also receive almost ten percent fewer written warnings. Minority drivers in Galesburg are more likely to be stopped for moving violations than white drivers (52.45 percent of all traffic stops versus 47.86 percent) but white drivers are more likely to be stopped for license or equipment violations.

Knox County Sheriff deputies made 1474 traffic stops in 2005 and IDOT estimates minorities account for 9.9 percent of drivers in the county. White drivers are more likely than minority drivers to be stopped by a deputy, 93.69 percent of total traffic stops. However 47.31 percent of minority drivers stopped were issued tickets as compared to only 34.03 percent of white drivers being ticketed. Monmouth data show that minority drivers were twice as likely to be stopped than white drivers in 2005 and seven percent more likely to be issued a ticket. Ditto for Kewanee. While minorities make up only 8.1 percent of Kewanee drivers they also account for 17.6 percent of all traffic stops and are more than five percent more likely than white drivers to receive a traffic ticket.

The problem varies considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, in Peoria minorities account for 25.4 percent of drivers and 43.72 percent of traffic stops and in Decatur those numbers are 18.61 and 39.36 percent respectively and join Chicago, Champaign, Joliet, Rockford and Springfield with the highest proportion of minority drivers stopped. Alternatively, in Rock Island 14.89 percent of drivers are minorities but they tallied only 12.41 percent of traffic stops and Moline's numbers were 14.89 and 11.21 percent respectively.

Data from 2005 show a slight decline in the percentage of minority traffic stops statewide, IDOT estimates minorities compose 28.48 percent of Illinois drivers yet account for 31.83 percent of statewide traffic stops. And when stopped minorities are more likely to be issued tickets than whites. White drivers stopped by police receive tickets 59.49 percent of the time and written warnings 27.06 percent of the time. Tickets are issued to minority drivers 68.54 percent of the time, almost ten percentage points higher. The difference is shown in the smaller number of written warnings given to minorities, only 17.78 percent.