Two key members of the Minority and Police Partnership are reacting differently to Bloomington police pedestrian stop data analyzed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Illinois Wesleyan University Professor Julie Prandi.
The data shows blacks were stopped nearly four times more than whites during the first six months of last year in Bloomington. A new Illinois law took effect, requiring police to record the race, reason and outcome of pedestrian stops. The analysis showed stops of blacks resulted in no charges 80 percent of the time. That was the case in 66 percent of the stops involving white pedestrians. MAAP’s Linda Foster says the data shows police are stopping and frisking people with little to no reason. “I know they say race doesn’t matter but look at the data. This is evidence driven that there are issues with stopping individuals with no real reason whatsoever other than walking in a crime area that you designated a crime area,” she said.
Foster says the data shows Chief Brendan Heffner is employing a random stop and frisk approach. She suggests it is not a best practice, “Police officers go through all that type of training. We invest all that time and energy in them and still you’re telling me you just gonna walk down the street and just start stopping people." She adds, "It doesn’t take all the training we’re giving you to be able to do that!”
The NAACP also has a seat on the Minority and Police Partnership. In fact, it was concerns about racial profiling and other police practices that led to creation of the group of police and minority organizations nearly 16 years ago. The group meets every two months to discuss issues that concern the minority community. But, NAACP President Quincy Cummings says the data doesn't reveal enough information to judge whether pedestrians stops were unwarranted.
Not Enough Information
"The ACLU did a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and got numbers but their research does not show the context behind the stops beyond the category they fell into." He contends, "So while we know what category the stop fell under, it’s hard to determine if person should not have been stopped in the first place." Cummings elaborates, "For example, one reason stated on reports involving African Americans was for being suspicious, but what was the reason behind that?" He says the stop data doesn't show whether it because of a report or a call by a citizen or an action that was observed by the officer. Or, he adds, "Was it truly racial profiling?"
Cummings says community members who feel they've been treated unfairly or stopped without cause, need to file a complaint with his organization or with the police department. "It’s hard to conclude stop and frisk is going on in Bloomington-Normal without additional context on the stops recorded and complaints from the community to support them."
Will the data analysis be debated by MAAP? Foster plans to bring it to the partnership at a future meeting. "Police are there to serve and protect so he [Chief Brendan Heffner] needs to serve the community and listen to the voices of MAAP so we can look at this initiative together so we can have a better outcome ... a fairer outcome," she said.
Cummings said of the ACLU-Prandi analysis, "There does not seem to be an alternative or solution being offered. Where do we go now this this information has been shared? I think that is a question that needs to be answered."
Chief Heffner earlier responded to the analysis by saying activity, not race is behind the stops. His agency provided a map of pedestrian stops that shows a majority of stops occurred in high crime areas.