Racial Profiling by Police in Davenport

June  17, 2014

      Racial profiling by police in Davenport has declined over the past three years. That's according to new data from a study on the treatment of minorities by local law enforcement. 

      Davenport and its civil rights commission hired Chris Barnum, associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at St. Ambrose University, to begin the study in 2011. After analyzing traffic data from the Davenport police, Barnum says profiling is down from 8 to 5 percent.

      Police Chief Frank Donchez says he can't explain why the change has occurred. But that's not important. 

       "It's not really how we change behavior, but if it's changing behavior, then that's a good thing, particularly if it's negative behavior. If there is instances of bias, I don't know if we can change a person from being biased. But, if we can change their behavior, then we've accomplished what we set out to do."

      He says the data shows trust between officers and residents has increased. 

      Dr. Chris Barnum and two graduate students analyzed responses from patrol and traffic officers, and officers assigned to high-crime areas.  Barnum says it's taken three years to recognize the downward trend, and there's more to study, like how much race affects the outcomes of traffic stops. 

      "And those have been fairly consistent. White drivers tend to be ticketed more. Black drivers tend to be arrested more and the police tend to ask the Black drivers, 'Can I search your car?' for a vountary search--a search where you don't have probably cause to get into the car."

       Barnum plans to study whether gender affects the outcome of stops, as well. 

      The study is the result of a paternship between Davenport and its civil rights commission, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Quad Cities Interfaith, and Churches United.

       A representative of the groups says Iowa City has begun a similar study.