MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee police traffic stops disproportionately involve African-Americans and the department lacks diversity in its ranks, according to a draft report from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The report obtained by the Journal Sentinel and published Wednesday found African-Americans are stopped three times more than white residents. In one police district that covers downtown and the city’s east side, 66 percent of all traffic stops from 2013 to 2015 involved black residents, even though thy make up only 8 percent of that area’s population.
Police Chief Edward Flynn requested the DOJ review in late 2015 after a now-fired white officer fatally shot a black man who had been sleeping on a park bench. A final report has not been released and the undated copy the Journal Sentinel obtained appears to be from mid-2016, the newspaper said.
In all, police conducted nearly 150,000 traffic stops in 2015 and officers said they felt pressured to conduct two traffic stops per shift or face retribution, according to the report. Police leaders have denied the existence of a quota system and Flynn said in a statement the draft report is “riddled with erroneous assertions and inaccurate data” that have been corrected in the yet-to-be-released final report.
“I have been requesting the report for months as I want the Milwaukee Police Department’s efforts accurately portrayed,” Flynn said in the statement.
Flynn has said the racial disparities from traffic stops are simply the result of the demographics where most of the city’s crime is concentrated. However, the report said the stops are negatively impacting police relationships with the public.
“We heard from teenagers and young adults that they are sometimes afraid of walking in their communities not because of the danger of crime but in fear of being stopped by the police,” the report said.
The issue of disparities in police stops was raised even before the draft report. In February, the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin sued the department, accusing it of having a stop-and-frisk program that mostly targets black and Latino residents. Flynn has denied the lawsuit’s allegations.
The draft report is also critical of the demographics the department, noting that 17 percent of police officers are black, even though 39 percent of the city’s population is African American. Just over 12 percent of police officers are Hispanic, even though Latinos make up 18 percent of Milwaukee’s residents, the report said. Women account for less than 17 percent of the police force.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com