In a new report, the Washington Lawyers Committee found a large racial divide among those arrested in the District.
According to the report released earlier this month, 83 percent of individuals arrested in D.C. between 2009 and 2011 were African American -- only 14 percent were white. African American adults account for less than half of the city's population. The Committee combed through more than 130,000 cases.
The report also addresses specific categories of crime:
- 69 percent of traffic arrests in D.C. were of African Americans
- 91 percent of drug arrests were of African Americans
- 76 percent of disorderly conduct arrests were of African Americans
In just about every category, African Americans were arrested at a much higher rate than white individuals. The study also notes Wards with large African American populatiosn saw a higher percentage of arrests in general.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier would not speak on camera about the findings, but issued the following statement:
"Comparison of racial proportions alone is not sufficient for examining this important issue. We are not aware of any agreement among community members, criminal justice professionals, or academics that says that arrest rates should match the racial proportion of residents of a city."
Dozens gathered on the steps of City Hall Wednesday to call for changes in the District's criminal justice system. Among them -- Tommy Wells, District Council member and mayoral candidate.
"Some things that occur are attenuated with poverty," Wells told News4. "We don't have a large poor white population but with traffic crimes, there should be no difference between black and white."
The author of the report told News4 he plans to request a meeting with Lanier to discuss the findings -- the report did not look at factors like education or economic status.
"We know the drug use is about the same, no matter what people's race is, or their education," "I don't think those factors are really relevant and I don't think it's particularly relevant when you're stopping people randomly."
Some are hoping a new law allowing individuals to carry small amounts of marijuana will reverse the trend. The law is pending in D.C. Council and is supported by the majority of council members.