It is easy to get lost in numbers, and the 2005 Illinois Traffic Stop Study is nothing but numbers. Rising out of the fully legitimate statewide concern that black and Hispanic motorists are stopped for alleged traffic violations in disproportionate numbers, the study forces much-increased recordkeeping on police departments across the state. And that results in rafts of numbers.
What are the trends in Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside? We’d call them interesting though not of blockbuster dimensions.
Changes in the numbers from 2004 to 2005 seem most pronounced and most strategic in Riverside where the overall number of traffic stops has plummeted from 4,755 to a mere 2,168 a year later. At the same time, virtually every motorist, black or white, pulled over in Riverside now gets a ticket. Warnings-verbal or written-are basically eliminated.
How did this happen? Police spokesman said a conscious decision was made, based on citizen input, to decrease traffic patrols on Riverside’s perimeter streets and dedicate patrol time to the interior maze of Riverside streets. It was on Harlem, First Avenue and Ogden that most traffic stops were made in 2004. While we worry over missed DUI stops on the periphery, it is hard to argue against more intense police presence in the neighborhoods.
In a clear sign of the impact of the new state reporting system on local towns are the stats on percentages of drivers stopped in Riverside who now receive a ticket. It is a virtual guarantee that if an officer pulls you over, you’ll drive away with a citation. If you are white, the chance of a ticket is 95 percent. If you are African-American the odds are 94 percent. The department is clearly concerned about registering “false stops” which is where any verbal or written warning got chalked up on state forms. A year back 18 percent of stops of Caucasians ended in a warning, while just 13 percent of stops of black motorists received warnings. Ticketing virtually everybody is a solution to potentially discriminatory discretion.
A notable drop in stops in North Riverside was attributed to a temporary shortage of patrol officers. There was a smaller drop in stops in Brookfield. And Brookfield officers seemed the least likely to stop minority drivers. Just 27 percent of Brookfield stops involved minority drivers.
So while it is easy to glaze over when reviewing sheafs of statistics such as these, we are strongly supportive of the scrutiny and consciousness-raising this monitoring has already produced. Driving while black or Hispanic can never be a crime or an excuse for stopping motorists.
Defending Dave Owen
In a “My Dad Can Take Your Dad” approach to governance that truly reflects the level of political discourse in Brookfield, we carry today a letter from former Brookfield President Bill Russ. In said letter Russ defends his village manager David Owen as both capable and cheap. We’ll go this far: David Owen was affable and cheap. If that is Brookfield’s level of expectation for its professional manager, then it will re-elect Bill Russ as village president. And he can bring back David Owen at something just above minimum wage.