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 June 6, 2003
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Rhode Island News
Study: Cars Driven By Black Or Hispanics To Be Searched More Than Those Driven By Whites
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 PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Data from the state's study on racial profiling shows that almost every police force in the state searched vehicles driven by blacks and Hispanics more often than
those driven by whites.
   According to data from the study conducted at Northeastern University, on average, vehicles driven by blacks and Hispanics were searched nearly three times as often. But some Rhode Island
police forces searched their vehicles as much as five times as
often as those driven by whites.
   Data from a three-month period ending June 30, 2002, analyzed by The Providence Journal, shows Rhode Island police find contraband, such as drugs, more often in cars driven by whites.
   The study, scheduled to be released this month, is intended to determine what actually happens at roadside. For two years ending in December police were required to fill out a data card with
information on each stop including time, place, race of the driver, the reason, and whether there was a search.
   The police use car searches ``as a means of intimidation and harassment, which gives you an unwritten message: 'You're not welcome in this community,''' said Dennis Langley, executive director of the Urban League.
   But police chiefs said their officers don't discriminate, that they search cars only for legal reasons, and that the figures don't suggest anything wrong with their enforcement practices.
   ``I can't tell that my officers have done anything wrong,'' said Warwick Police Chief Stephen McCartney, whose force searched cars driven by minorities more than twice as often as those driven by whites, but less than the state average of 2.66 times.
   He said the statistics showing that contraband is more often found in cars driven by whites, is something ``we as police chiefs need to look at.''
   Results varied across 14 suburban communities in the state. While Barrington police reported searching no minority vehicles at all, Johnston police searched minority vehicles more than five
times as often as those driven by whites. The same held true for 13 rural communities.
   Johnston Police Chief Richard S. Tamburini told the Journal it could be because of ``minorities from Providence coming over to Johnston and committing crimes and trying to get back to
   He added that all of those searched had been pulled over for traffic violations, but ``we do not condone racial profiling in this department,'' and that ``we know our officers aren't doing it
based on race.''
   South Kingstown police, according to data, reported more traffic stops than any other city or town in the state. But they searched only about 1 percent of the 4,500 stopped.
   But South Kingstown police searched vehicles driven by blacks and Hispanics almost six times as often as those driven by whites.
   It was the largest disproportion in the state, aside from police forces that searched fewer than 50 cars.
   South Kingstown Police Chief Vincent Vespia said he didn't know the reason for the discrepancy. He said officers have little discretion in some searches, like when a driver is arrested on a
warrant, or the vehicle is seized, resulting in an inventory search.
   He said his officers have ``a clear understanding of the rules of evidence and reasonable grounds to both arrest and search.'' They get in-service training on searching.
   ``I'm very, very confident that this department does not discriminate,'' he said. ``We do not profile. It's prohibited. I won't allow it.''
   The five communities planners label ``urban ring'' _ Warwick, North Providence, East Providence, West Warwick and Cranston _ all had search rates below the state average.
   And state troopers search cars driven by minorities about 2 1/2 times as often as cars driven by whites, according to the data.
   Col. Steven M. Pare, superintendent of the state police, said he thinks troopers' searches are justified, but practices have changed. He said troopers are now required to document all their
searches. About a year ago, troopers did not have to record the reason for the search if there was no arrest.
   Providence statistics were unreliable because of spotty collection, the Journal reported. The Providence Police Department is under court order to continue collecting data until July.
   The Northeastern consultants say they are considering a variety of explanations _ other than race _ for the discrepancies. For instance, they are looking at the amount of discretion the police
can exercise in deciding whether to search a vehicle, according to Amy Farrell, a sociologist and associate director of Northeastern's Institute on Race and Justice.
   Whatever the reasons, Deputy Attorney General Gerald J. Coyne, who is overseeing the study, said that even the statewide average ``cries out for further review.''

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