LINCOLN — An annual report on racial profiling continues to show that African-Americans in Douglas County are stopped for traffic offenses almost twice as frequently as their proportion of the adult population.
Black residents represent 10.4 percent of the adult population in the state's largest county but represent 19.8 percent of those stopped for suspected traffic violations, according to the Nebraska Crime Commission.
In Omaha, 21.9 percent of traffic stops involved African-Americans, who comprise 12.2 percent of the population.
The commission, under a 2001 state law, has compiled yearly reports on traffic stops from law enforcement agencies across the state and whether the stop results in a search or an arrest. The 2012 report was released Tuesday, but the data collection will end on Jan. 1 unless the State Legislature acts to continue it.
Mike Behm, executive director of the Crime Commission, said that the traffic stop data per racial group has been fairly consistent over the 10 years of the annual report.
When asked if it's a problem when black motorists are twice as likely to be pulled over in Douglas County, Behm said that's up to local agencies to determine. The report, he said, doesn't provide enough detail for the state to draw those conclusions.
Calls to the Omaha Police Department for comment were not immediately returned Tuesday.
However, in the past, Omaha police have blamed the higher stops involving black drivers on a greater police presence, and crime calls, in eastern Omaha, which has a higher percentage of African-American residents.
An official with the American Civil Liberties Union Nebraska said the numbers indicate problems in Omaha and also illustrate the need to continue compiling the data.
The lack of change in the traffic stop numbers also indicates a need for more education and sensitivity training of law enforcement officers, said Becki Brenner, the ACLU's executive director.
“Data is only good if you use it,” Brenner said.
She called for the passage of Legislative Bill 99, which would extend the gathering of traffic stop information through 2017. The bill, introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, would also give the Crime Commission's Racial Profiling Advisory Committee a more active role, by allowing it to provide broader recommendations about dealing with racial profiling and by giving it the power to request inquiries into incidents.
LB 99 was designated a speaker's priority bill, but whether it comes up for debate during the 2013 session is uncertain. Bills are moving slowly this session, prompting Speaker of the Legislature Sen. Greg Adams of York to announced Tuesday a later end to daily sessions.
The traffic stop report indicated that statewide, black drivers were almost four times more likely to be arrested during a traffic stop than all motorists (12 percent versus 3.4 percent) and less likely to get a written warning (29.9 percent versus 43.9 percent).
In 2012, the report said there were 15 allegations of racial profiling statewide. The allegations were fielded by the Nebraska State Patrol, the Omaha Police Department and the Lincoln Police Department. Nine of those cases were listed as exonerated by local agencies, and six were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
There were 505,481 traffic stops reported to the Crime Commission for 2012, of which 72 percent were conducted by the State Patrol and Police Departments and Sheriff's Offices in Douglas and Lancaster Counties.
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