Blacks account for fewer St. Paul police stops, data shows

Tim Sturrock

The St. Paul Police Department doesn’t pull over and search blacks at the same disproportionate rates it did months before, according to data presented to the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday.

St. Paul police collected the data between Dec. 16 and Sept. 1. It found blacks made up 23.7 percent of those pulled over. That compares to the 25.5 percent pulled over between Apr. 15, 2000, and Dec 15.

Blacks make up 12 percent of St. Paul’s population, according to the 2000 census.

St. Paul police did not pull over American Indians or Hispanics at disproportionate rates, either. The department did search those minority groups disproportionately but less so than before.

A June agreement reached by the St. Paul Police Department and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People requires that police hand out business cards at every traffic stop and routine call. The cards refer people to the department’s internal affairs division.

Dan Bostrom, City Council president and former police officer, called that stipulation, and the suggestion of biased policing, an insult to police integrity.

He also was concerned the police department would be flooded with unfounded complaints.

City Council Member Kathy Lantry said handing out business cards is “part of being a professional” and was disappointed that the debate continues after the June vote.

Robin Magee, a Hamline University law professor and chairwoman of St. Paul’s NAACP Legal Redress Committee, said the department could only benefit from an influx of complaints, although she said she doubts there would be a significant increase.

Magee said the current findings are not surprising. She expects larger changes after approved recommendations are made. Other parts of the agreement include requiring officers to explain before a consensual search that the search can be stopped at any time and that the search could result in an arrest. Officers will also receive special training to comply with the agreement.

Michael Jordan, spokesman for the St. Paul Police Department, said it’s hard to tell that the data depicts biased policing.

“We don’t have enough numeric and quantitative data to know for sure,” he said. “Something that we can do for sure is inform officers of their behavior and try to make sure they don’t do anything that would lead to a biased application of law enforcement authority.”

Data collection will continue and be reported every six months, Jordan said.

In June, the Minneapolis Police Department released a study finding minorities were pulled over at a disproportionate rate. That data did not contain information on searches.

Minneapolis finished collecting data – including search information – in July, and a racial profiling study is being conducted.


Tim Sturrock covers courts and cops and encourages comments at [email protected]