MPD to document and publish stop-and-frisk data

To be more transparent, police officers will record data regarding whom they stop.

by Kristina Busch

In an effort to increase transparency between police and city residents, the Minneapolis Police Department will adopt a new policy requiring documentation and publication of stop-and-frisk data.
The change will go into effect later this year and will require Minneapolis police to record the characteristics — including gender, race and age — of each suspicious 
individual they stop. Still, some experts say the policy could worsen present stereotypes. 
The procedure aims to better and increase documentation of police conduct in the field, MPD Public Information Officer John Elder said. 
“Our officers document an incredible amount of information every shift they work, and this is just something more that they will be doing for transparency,” he said. 
University of Minnesota criminal law professor Richard Frase said the change could reveal the extent to which minority individuals are pulled over by police, a number he said can be disproportionately large compared to the size of the total minority population. 
“There is a general problem of collecting data of race because, in our society, there is a strong correlation between race, poverty and crime,” he said.
Though University of Minnesota police don’t stop-and-frisk suspicious individuals, they document information and publish crime alerts about suspects of crimes occurring on campus, University spokesman Tim Busse said.
“If, for whatever reason, a police report is generated, the officer collects all of the information pertinent to that incident,” Busse said. “From victims, suspects, witnesses and so on, officers collect all the information that is relevant, including race.” 
But taking into account the racial descriptors of stopped individuals can amplify existing stereotypes, Frase said. 
“If you collect data on people who were stopped, police will claim they were stopped because they were doing something suspicious,” he said. “But if the data turns out to be disproportionally non-white, it adds to the stereotype that non-white people are always doing something suspicious.”
To avoid stereotyping, UMPD publishes a suspect description in their crime alerts only if it could help identify the individual, Busse said. If only race and gender are documented, police won’t release a description.
Frase said a suspect’s characteristics shouldn’t be released unless they’re at-large and could harm others.
“The race of a perpetrator is relevant to the police, but it is not information that the general community needs to have,” he said.
Frase said he thinks police departments should keep track of stop-and-frisk frequency, to ensure that officers follow protocol.
The policy will go into effect later this year, Elder said.
“We are still dealing with IT having a way of gathering this information electronically and meeting with the Police Conduct Oversight Commission to make sure their concerns are being addressed,” he said.