Racial profiling report confirms St. Paul’s problem

Tim Sturrock

St. Paul Police Chief William Finney said Thursday that data collected between Apr. 15, 2000, and Dec. 15, 2000, confirms his department has a problem with racial profiling.

“We know there are issues of concern,” Finney said. “We know that the anecdotal commentary that African-Americans in particular are stopped at higher rates than their population compared to whites is apparent and true.”

While Hispanics and American Indians were pulled over at a rate consistent with their population, the study – released Wednesday by the University’s Institute on Race and Poverty – found those minority groups, along with blacks, were searched more frequently than whites and Asians.

Although communities of color in St. Paul have expressed concern about racial profiling, Finney believes the city is not alone.

“St. Paul is certainly not an aberration to what is going on in terms of police practices,” he said. “You simply have some factual basis by which to judge St. Paul.”

Finney commended the Minneapolis Police Department for undertaking a similar study and said he is disappointed other Minnesota police departments haven’t followed suit.

The chief criticized other departments for pursuing solutions rather than determining the problem.

“What are you going to stop if you don’t know what the problem is,” Finney said.

“If you simply close your eyes and say we don’t want to do this because it might make us look bad, to me, that’s irresponsible,” he said.

Nathaniel Khaliq, president of the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP, said, “It’s really not a victory, we’ve got a long ways to go. The only time I think we’ll have a victory is when we eradicate it.”

Khaliq said the NAACP and St. Paul police are working together to combat racial profiling. Although he is prohibited by a federal mediator from discussing the contents of deliberations between the two organizations, Khaliq said a possible agreement could include training for officers and changes in police policies and practices.

“What we would hope that would come out of (the study) is that it would change the minds of policy makers and those in decision-making positions,” Khaliq said.

Minneapolis police are currently collecting more data on traffic stops.

Cindy Montgomery, public information officer for the Minneapolis police, said it’s too early to say whether the department will do another study.

The narrow scope of the collecting method Minneapolis used didn’t indicate whether there was a profiling problem and offered few recommendations for a broader study.

Captain Steve Johnson of the University police said his department has no plans to conduct a study and is not aware of any formal complaints of racial profiling in his department. He did say that if there were complaints, his department would act on them.

University police have yet to implement their Computer Aided Dispatch system, the same system that St. Paul police used in their study.

“It’s pretty minimal what we can do statistically with our report system right now,” Johnson said.

The University Police Department received training earlier this year that would address racial profiling, although the training was not geared specifically toward that issue, he said.

Johnson added, “Law enforcement ethics primarily concerns the ethical use of an officer’s discretionary authority.”