UCPD pedestrian, traffic stops involve disproportionate number of blacks, minorities

Staff Writer

Forty-eight out of 51 pedestrian stops, or 94.1 percent, made by the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) in 2017 were done on black people, and 520 out of 631 UCPD traffic stops in 2017, or 82.4 percent, were performed on people of racial or ethnic minorities, according to studies released by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

These figures are disproportionate to the racial and ethnic demographics of the Hyde Park–Kenwood area, though they do more so reflect the demographics of the UCPD’s extended patrol area, where the UCPD acts in a supporting role to the Chicago Police Department. That area extends roughly from 37th to 64th streets and from Cottage Grove Avenue to Lake Shore Drive, though the UCPD is primarily responsible for patrolling the University of Chicago (U. of C.) campus.

A U. of C. spokeswoman said that car traffic comes into the UCPD’s extended patrol area from across the South Side, “which as a whole is more than 90 percent African-American.”

“One of UCPD’s primary functions is responding to community input and calls regarding safety. The vast majority of pedestrian stops are initiated by the calls from the community,” she said. “Of the 77 pedestrian stops in 2016, 55 were initiated by calls from community members. In general, UCPD does not make traffic stops based on minor infractions. Typically they involve a concern for public safety, such as endangerment of pedestrians.”

“UCPD has policies against racial profiling and biased policing and regularly trains all personnel on these policies,” she continued. “In addition, UCPD’s force is reflective of the communities they serve. Of the 95 officers, 62.4 percent are African American, 24.7 percent are white and 11.8 percent are Hispanic.”

She added “that UCPD has implemented additional accountability measures to safeguard against racial profiling and biased based policing such as in-car video cameras and officer body-worn cameras.”

Forty-four of the UCPD pedestrian stops involving black people involved a pat-down, with eight done by consent and 36 done by reasonable suspicion. Two pedestrian stops involving black people led to a search beyond a pat-down, two led to a warning or citation and 14 led to arrests.

All three of the pedestrian stops involving white people involved pat-downs conducted by reasonable suspicion. No pedestrian stops on white people led to searches, warnings, citations or arrests.

The UCPD only stopped white and black pedestrians in 2017.

All 111 UCPD traffic stops involving white drivers were the result of moving violations, as did all but six traffic stops involving minority drivers. Minority drivers experienced three stops resulting from equipment violations and three from licensing or registration violations.

Nine percent of traffic stops involving white drivers resulted in a citation; 16.9 percent of those involving minority drivers did. The one vehicle search done by the UCPD during a traffic stop was of a black driver’s vehicle.

A study by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 84 percent of white drivers pulled over by the police in 2011 felt they had been stopped for a legitimate reason, compared to 68 percent of black drivers and 74 percent of Hispanic drivers.

In April, The Chicago Reporter, an investigative race and poverty journalism nonprofit, showed that UCPD pedestrian and traffic stops had “increased significantly” early this year.

Seventy-two percent of pedestrian stops at the time of publication were initiated by UCPD officers. Most stops were recorded as having been done because of a “suspicious person.”

The Reporter also found that there had been four times as many UCPD vehicle stops during the first three months in 2018 than in the same period of 2017, “and more than they stopped in all of 2016.” The Reporter’s review of UCPD incidents reports found “that the number of crimes reported to UCPD has remained relatively steady.”

The DOJ’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) said in a 2013 online post that the nationwide discrepancy of traffic stops involving people of color compared to white drivers may result from areas’ differences in police exposure.

“If minority drivers tend to drive in communities where there are more police patrols then the police will be more likely to notice any infractions the black drivers commit,” said the NIJ post. “Having more intense police patrols in these areas could be a source of bias or it could simply be the police department’s response to crime in the neighborhood.”

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning estimated that the 2015 racial and ethnic breakdown of Hyde Park’s population was 46.8 percent white, seven percent Hispanic or Latino, 29.9 percent black, 12.1 percent Asian and 4.2 percent other. The estimate for Kenwood was 16.9 percent white, 3.8 percent Hispanic or Latino, 67.7 percent black, 8.6 percent Asian and three percent other.

The populations of the Oakland and Woodlawn community areas, which in part make up the UCPD’s extended patrol area, are 92.6 and 84.7 percent black, respectively.

Out of the University of Chicago total student population of 15,918, 41.1 percent are white, 7.8 percent are Hispanic, 4.3 percent are black, 12.9 percent are Asian, 0.2 percent Native American and seven are Pacific Islanders. A quarter of students are non-resident aliens, 2.7 percent are of two or more races or ethnicities and six percent are unspecified.

Minority drivers were the subject of 84.6 percent of Chicago Police traffic stops in 2017. The racial breakdown of the Chicago Police’s 2017 pedestrian stops was 7.9 percent white, 71.5 percent black, 0.1 percent American Indian, 19.4 percent Hispanic, 0.8 percent Asian and 0.2 percent other.

Chicago’s racial and ethnic breakdown is 35.6 percent white, 32.1 percent black, 0.2 percent American Indian, 26.2 percent Hispanic and 5.9 percent Asian.

Police departments are required to collect and submit data for the Illinois Traffic Stop and Pedestrian Stop studies, the former through July 1, 2019.