Black people make up only 8 percent of Austin, Texas’ adult population, yet comprise a quarter of all motorist arrests, a new report from the city government finds.
The study (h/t CNN) analyzed traffic stops and arrests for black, Latinx, white, and Asian drivers, finding that black and Latinx drivers were overrepresented in stops and arrests while white and Asian drivers were underrepresented (please, stop me when I’ve surprised you).
As CNN reports, the survey—a collaboration between Austin’s Office of Police Oversight and the Offices of Innovation and Equity—looked at the number of people pulled over between 2015 and 2018 and broke down those rates, as well as any resulting arrests, by race and ethnicity to look at any existing disparities in policing.
Black drivers made up 15 percent of all motor vehicle stops; when viewing arrests from traffic stops, that rate rose to 25 percent. Latinx drivers, meanwhile, make up 31 percent of Austin’s adult residents and 33 percent of traffic stops, but a whopping 43 percent of resulting arrests.
Compare this to Asian drivers, who at 4 percent of all motor vehicle stops, are 6 percent of Austin’s 18-and-older population—fairly closely aligned. But they are only arrested at a rate of 0.9 percent. White people, meanwhile, make up the biggest share of Austin’s adult population—54 percent—but only 47 percent of traffic stops and less than a third of resulting arrests.
These figures are consistent with what data across the country has shown for more than 20 years. What makes them notable is that Austin PD has attempted to tackle its racial disparities in the past five years. As CNN reports, the department has published reports on racial profiling and police use of force, implemented implicit bias training for new and current employees, and has crafted new policies with input from the community.
But still, the disparities persist, opening up some important questions: How long does it take to turn around a culture of bias? Is current training insufficient? Or is the answer, as a lot of reform advocates suggest, not just trying to make better cops, but divesting from them by decreasing the number of police and police interactions?
The three organizations responsible for publishing the report have their own recommendations, calling for Austin PD to eliminate racial disparities in its policing by 2023. Among their suggestions: requiring implicit bias testing in their hiring, acknowledging that racial disparity exists “and [is] worsening,” and training all staff on racial equity.