Crime and Courts

Data Shows Police Stop Black People at Disproportionately High Rate in DC

Black youth under 18 were ten times more likely to get stopped than their white peers, according to a new ACLU DC report

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, D.C., says police data shows the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) may be violating the constitutional rights of Black residents on a daily basis.

The data shows Black individuals were disproportionately stopped and searched in interactions that ended with no warning, ticket or arrest. Whites were underrepresented, according to a report was released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and its D.C. chapter.

"This data actually you know really shows there is a need for not only for reform but a reimagining and a structural change to policing," Monica Hopkins, ACLU DC director, said.

The report reviewed data on 62,611 police stops between July 22, 2019, and December 31, 2019.

More than 70% of people stopped by Washington, D.C., police in those months were Black, despite African-Americans making up than less than half the District's residents, a newly released review of data shows. About 14% of those stopped were white.

Of stops that led to no warning, ticket or arrest, 86.1% were Black. More than 90% of those searched who weren't warned, ticketed or arrested were Black.

"That almost certainly means that Black people composed the vast majority of individuals subjected to stops or searches despite not violating the law," the ACLU report read.

Black youth under 18 were 10 times more likely to get stopped than their white peers, according to the report.

The ACLU released new data that shows during a six-month period 72 percent of the people D.C. police stopped were Black. News4's Jackie Bensen reports the organization sued the police department to obtain the data.

The ACLU says the data as a whole suggests the constitutional rights of Black residents and visitors may be violated consistently in the capital city, which is "unacceptable." The organization called on the D.C. Council to reject a proposed $18.5 million increase to the MPD's budget for next year.

“The first thing to do if you’re approached by an officer is to ask if you’re free to leave,” ACLU-DC attorney Michael Perloff said. “If the officer says yes, you can go. You don’t have to stick around and answer questions. If the officer says no that means that you’ve been stopped.”

A stop requires reasonable suspicion that you’re involved in a crime. 

“An officer does have authority to pat down your body if they have reasonable suspicion that you may have a weapon,” Perloff said. “So if you have that happen, that is something an officer is entitled to do. But in the course of conducting a frisk, an officer can’t reach his or her hands into your pockets.”

D.C. Police didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said she wants to review the numbers with D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham before she makes any comment.

MPD says they use stops to stop unsafe drivers and help remove guns from neighborhoods. Police say they recovered 700 guns, less than 1 per 100 stops.

About 13% of stops resulted in a pat-down, frisk, or pre-arrest search of a person or their property, according to MPD.

The data was released after the ACLU and organizations including Black Lives Matter DC and Stop Police Terror DC successfully sued the MPD, forcing them to release stop-and-frisk data.

D.C. Police are required to release data on the race of individuals stopped under the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act, passed in 2016. About three years later, a judge ordered MPD to start following the law.

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