Austin police monitor wants more done to prevent racial profiling

FILE - Traffic stop involving a search in Austin.
FILE - Traffic stop involving a search in Austin.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police Monitor Margo Frasier wants more done to prevent racial profiling. The Office of the Police Monitor (OPM) Wednesday released a new report analyzing traffic stops and complaints from 2015.

The latest annual report makes recommendations on policy, procedures and discipline on several issues related to preventing profiling. In 2015, 1,134 people (internal and external) contacted the OPM or the Austin Police Department’s Internal Affairs Department wishing to file a complaint against one or more members of the department — an increase of 2 percent from 2014.

As Frasier steps down at the end of the month, she believes more should be done to stop the problem.

“We find that it’s consistent,” said Frasier. “African-Americans are stopped more often. African-Americans are subject to search more often,” she explained. Her final report also shows African-Americans are more likely to be arrested and more likely to have force used against them than others.

“If you’re African-American and you’re stopped you stand a one out of seven chance,” Frasier told KXAN her data show. “If you’re Hispanic it’s one out of nine. If you’re Caucasian it’s one out of 21,” she continued to explain.

Her recommendations to prevent police racial profiling and increase transparency include: asking APD to collect and release data on stops and searches that do not result in a citation or arrest, including pedestrians. She also suggests routine audits of race reporting from traffic stop videos to ensure profiling data has been accurately collected and shared as required by law.

In 2015, KXAN uncovered APD’s racial profiling data is not accurate because officers often record the wrong race during traffic stops. Our investigation into APD prompted then-Chief Art Acevedo to hire an expert to conduct an outside audit of the ticketing system and changes were made to fix the problem we uncovered.

“Well the data needs to be accurate,” Frasier reiterated. “They issue their little racial profiling report and they say all is good in the neighborhood. But what I know now from being in this job for six years is, all is not good in the neighborhood.”

According to the report, blacks/African-Americans were stopped at a rate of 5 percent above their representation within the city of Austin’s population. Caucasians accounted for 50 percent of the stops and 31 percent of the searches. Despite being searched the greatest number of times in 2015, Hispanics/Latinos had a 1 in 9 chance of being searched after being stopped. The report shows this has remained constant for the past three years. The report says when stopped, blacks/African-Americans have a 1 in 7 chance of being searched, in 2013 and 2014 it was 1 in 6. 

This year, Austin police will begin collecting the complete data set on all stops, to be reported in 2018. The department notes it’s not required by law to report the numbers, but APD agreed to in order to have a thorough analysis. In response to an OPM recommendation that the department routinely audit traffic stop videos, APD says they currently conduct random audits of their video to look for officer misconduct.

Recommendations include:

  • Given the number of incidents in which the Austin Police Department uses force, the number of external allegations seems low. In order to ensure that the Response to Resistance policy is being followed, the OPM is recommending that routine audits of Response to Resistance reporting be conducted by the OPM and the APD. If deficiencies are discovered, training, policy development, and/or discipline should be considered.
  • It is recommended that the APD continue to review the staffing assignments to allocate the most experienced officers and least experienced officers in at least a more balanced manner taking into consideration the level of activity and crime rate.

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