Traffic study finds Chicago police are 6 times more likely to stop Black drivers

Jasmine Minor Image
Tuesday, November 14, 2023
Traffic study finds CPD 6 times more likely to stop Black drivers
A new traffic study by Free2Move found Chicago police are six times more likely to stop Black drivers, regardless of what community they live in.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new traffic study found Black drivers were six times more likely to be stopped by police in Chicago.

Even in areas like Lincoln Park, where Black drivers are less than one-third of the population, data shows they still make up more than half of traffic stops. The Free2Move organization is pushing for change in Chicago policing.

Denzel Johnson said he was five blocks from home, getting gas, when he was pulled over and surrounded by four different police cars.

"I was very nervous and very afraid," he said. "They began to harass members in the car, my friends."

He said the police were looking for two Black men and mistook Johnson for the suspects.

"I've seen traffic stops where young Black men have lost their lives," Johnson said.

Data on the city's traffic stop was presented in Monday's city council meeting by Free2Move, a coalition advocating for a more radically equitable system of traffic safety. Their date showed Black drivers were six times more likely to get pulled over by CPD. The study analyzed more than 4.6 million traffic stops over 19 years in Chicago.

"It's kind of predictable to be a Black driver and be pulled over regardless of what community that you're in," said 5th Ward Alderman Desmon Yancy.

However, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said traffic stops happen in the highest crime neighborhoods, and while people think there's racial disparity he said it's about taking down criminals.

Others disagree.

"I want that to be true. But when we see that only, I think I saw 1.9% were related to DUI or reckless driving. Certainly I find it hard to believe that black and Latinx drivers are so far out of compliance, as opposed to white drivers," said Ald. Daniel La Spata, chairman of the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee.

Free2Move data shows less than 1% of traffic stops in 2021 resulted in the recovery of things like drugs, alcohol or weapons. They said often broken taillights or headlights are the reason for the stop in the first place.

"We don't believe one broke tail or head light should be a reason for a potentially invasive, harmful traffic stop," said a member of the group during the council meeting.

Free2Move proposes three main solutions, including stopping pretextual stops or stops where the intention is to conduct a suspicious investigation, limiting low-level stops and ending suspicious consent searches, so Black drivers can avoid unnecessary experiences.

"We want them to feel that they can trust the police officers in their community," La Spata said.

ABC7 Eyewitness News reached out to the Chicago Police Department for a response to the report, but have not heard back.