MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota police department criticized after one of its officers shot black motorist Philando Castile during a traffic stop released some data on traffic stops and race Wednesday, calling it part of a commitment to being more transparent.
About 29 percent of motorists stopped by officers from the St. Anthony Police Department in 2017 were black; 64 percent were white. Most of the stopped motorists lived outside St. Anthony and Lauderdale — the small Twin Cities suburbs the department patrols. The combined racial makeup of the two cities and surrounding areas is about 17 percent black and 64 percent white.
Dianne Binns, president of St. Paul chapter of the NAACP, said she wasn't surprised by the disparity, adding that the numbers represent "business as usual in Minnesota — not only in St. Anthony, but all over."
Police Chief Jon Mangseth said 2017 is the first year detailed demographic data on all traffic stops is available, so direct comparisons to prior years can't be made. But he said the numbers are similar to same-year data from other Ramsey County departments.
Mangseth said the information will help with decisions on enforcement, training and other allocation of resources. He also said more discussions are necessary to improve services that police provide.
"We need to hear from our community members," he said. "We need to hear their voice. They have a stake in what we are doing here as a police agency."
The department was criticized after Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Castile during a 2016 traffic stop after Castile told the officer he was armed. Castile's girlfriend was in the car and streamed the shooting's gruesome aftermath on Facebook. Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges last year and left the department.
Castile's family and community members accused the department of racial profiling, and city leaders asked the Department of Justice for help with improving police-community relations. Since then, the Justice Department has changed its collaborative reform program, but the city has continued to work on building community trust.
The department made 2,104 traffic stops in St. Anthony and Lauderdale in 2017. Black motorists were cited instead of warned 51 percent of the time, compared to 44 percent for white motorists.
The report said the main reason for that disparity was because officers have little discretion when it comes to issuing citations in cases of motorists driving without a license.
The data also showed that black motorists are searched, and their vehicles are searched, at a slightly higher percentage than white motorists. The report said those disparities are insignificant.
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