By Gretchen Schuldt
The black / white racial disparity in traffic stops by Milwaukee police was highest in the two police districts with the greatest share of white residents, a Department of Justice study shows.
The disparity was greatest in District 6 on the city's far south side. The district is about 70% white, according to the report, yet whites accounted for just 22 percent of traffic stops. African Americans, meanwhile, accounted for 3 percent of the population, but 64 percent of the traffic stops. Hispanics make up 21 percent of the population, and accounted for 14 percent of the traffic stops.
In real numbers, blacks were stopped 29,834 times from 2013 to 2015 in District 6; whites were stopped 10,407 times, and Hispanics, 6,335 times.
The second greatest disparity was in District 2, also on the south side, where African Americans accounted for 8 percent of the population, but 63 percent of the traffic stops.
"The disparity could be a result of the traffic enforcement strategy used by MPD," according to the draft copy of the report, which is all that was released before DOJ ended the study. There are "several" factors that could account for the racial and ethnic variation in traffic stops, the report said.
The report now is the subject of a review by a community committee, which will make recommendations to the city for MPD improvement implementation.
The table below shows the racial disparity in traffic stops in each police district. It shows the racial makeup of the district, the number of traffic stops by race, the percentage of the total traffic stops for each race, and a racial disparity score.
The disparity score is simply the difference between the population percentage by race and the traffic stop percentage by race. For example, District 5 is 76% black, but African Americans accounted for 67% of all traffic stops, a difference of minus 9 percentage points, which is reflected in the "Disparity" column.
The higher the number in that column, the more over represented that particular ethnic group is in traffic stops; the lower, the more under represented.
District 5 is the only district in which African Americans fall into the under represented category.
Conversely, whites were over represented in traffic stops only in District 2 and 5, and were under represented in the other five.
On average, the disparity score for whites was -17; for Hispanics, -4; and for African Americans, +27.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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