DPS Pledges to Take Steps to Prevent Profiling of Motorists

The Texas Department of Public Safety says it will regularly review traffic stop data to ensure minority motorists aren't being stopped and searched at higher rates than white drivers.

DPS now will review traffic stops for individual troopers, rather than assessing aggregate numbers, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The decision comes after the newspaper reviewed 14 million DPS records from 2009 to 2015, finding that Hispanic motorists were 33 percent more likely to be searched than white drivers and black motorists were more than twice as likely to be searched than white drivers.

For years, DPS has asserted its troopers don't conduct the illegal practice of profiling motorists based on race or ethnicity. DPS Director Steve McCraw repeated the pledge Tuesday during an appearance before a legislative panel, adding that he welcomes ideas to ensure profiling doesn't happen.

"We do take racial profiling seriously, I can assure you," McCraw said. "There's no other agency that holds its people more accountable than the DPS. If they're engaged in misconduct, we will act on that."

The newspaper's review found 231 troopers searched minority motorists at least twice as frequently as white ones, and were less likely to find contraband.

"We're going to commission someone to look at the data in more detail," McCraw said. "And when I say in more detail, it means all minorities, it means all demographics across the state, and it includes gender."

Forty drivers in the last five years have accused DPS of racial profiling and the agency has ruled in favor of its troopers in each case by determining profiling did not occur, the Statesman reported.

The paper previously found some areas of DPS' performance compared favorably to departments elsewhere. For instance, the agency's search rate for all drivers has dropped significantly in recent years and is relatively low compared to other agencies. In Missouri, law enforcement officers statewide searched black motorists at nearly triple the DPS' rate.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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