CHICAGO (CBS) — The American Civil Liberties Union was renewing its call for an end to consensual vehicle searches by police, after a new report suggested racial profiling in Illinois is still a significant problem.
WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports the ACLU examined traffic stop data provided to the Illinois Department of Transportation, and found police in Chicago are four times more likely to ask permission to search the vehicles of African-American and Hispanic drivers than they are to make the same request of white motorists.
However, police found contraband — such as illegal guns or drugs — in the vehicles of twice as many white drivers.
Statewide, black and Latino motorists were twice as likely as whites to undergo consensual vehicle searches.
“We see a pattern where there’s a lower standard being applied to the hunch or to the suspicion to search an African-American or a Latino’s car,” ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said. “It means that, over the years, you have thousands of black and Latino drivers and families who are subjected to these degrading, humiliating searches – often on the side of a road – for no other reason than really the color of their skin.”
Yohnka said the state should forbid police from asking motorists for consent to search their car.
“It’s hard to refute these numbers. They are searching a higher number and a higher rate of drivers of color, and they’re finding less contraband in those drivers, as compared to white drivers,” he said.
Although a driver legally can say no if police do not have a warrant for a search, Yohnka said the vast majority of drivers feel compelled to agree to a search, largely because they don’t want to raise suspicion, even if they’ve done nothing wrong.
“The request for consent to search your car often comes from an armed police officer along the side of a road, or the side of a street, sometimes at night. It’s a very coercive, intimidating kind of thing,” Yohnka said.
Police departments have disputed the ACLU’s findings, and told the Chicago Tribune their officers do not racially profile.
The ACLU issued its findings approximately 10 years after the Illinois General Assembly mandated police departments keep data on traffic stops, in order to assess the problem of racial profiling.