The Minneapolis Police Department has begun tracking the ethnicities and other demographic characteristics of drivers and pedestrians stopped by its officers to determine whether racial profiling is a common problem in the state’s largest city.
The new policy, first announced last fall following the release of a report criticizing the department for disproportionately stopping black and American Indian residents, was delayed as officials worked out a number of technical issues, Deputy Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said on Thursday. Officers will now be required to record data — including the person’s gender and race involved in suspicious vehicle, suspicious person and traffic stops.
Police must also use their in-car computers, or CAPRS (Computer Assisted Police Records System), to record the reason for the stop and whether a search was performed before they can proceed to the next call, Arradondo said. The department will also collect data on police interactions with transgender people.
The policy change comes amid a push for greater police transparency by advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, which has long argued that street stops overwhelmingly target innocent racial minorities. Both sides agreed that a more clear picture of the problem of racial profiling could not be drawn without more data.
“There is no question that disparities exist,” Chief Janeé Harteau said on Thursday. “The question is why, and now we have a better opportunity to address that why and understand it.”
Harteau said that there is a fine line between proper police work and questionable infringement of people’s civil rights.
“Our goal is constitutional policing, bottom line,” she said, adding that her officers were undergoing training to help them guard against unconscious prejudices in their decisionmaking. “But at the end of the day, we still need officers to do their jobs, and we need to make stops of the right people for the right reasons, and this will provide us a mechanism to do just that.
Department officials have for months insisted that delays in rolling out the new policy stemmed from logistical inefficiencies of its records management system, which was recently overhauled.