LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- An analysis of traffic stop data by The Courier Journal has found African Americans in Louisville are disproportionately stopped and are three times more likely to be searched than white drivers.
The paper analyzed 130,999 stops between 2016 and 2018. They found that African Americans accounted for 33% of the stops although they make up only about 20% of Louisville's driving-age population. Of 8,942 searches, 57% involved African Americans. That's despite a much higher incidence of contraband found with white drivers.
According to the analysis, police found contraband in 72% of the searches of whites versus only 41% for African Americans.
Speaking before the Metro Council Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, Police Chief Steve Conrad said traffic stops are only one tactic for violence reduction, though he added, "In terms of them being effective for reducing violent crime, I would agree that statistically they are not."
He said that is one of the reasons he announced a new approach last month in which stops will no longer be "a matter of routine."
Under new rules, which go into effect Aug. 1, officers must be able to justify why they remove drivers from vehicles, frisk or handcuff them, or make them sit on the ground.
Jamaj Johnson was stopped last June by Louisville Metro Police for failing to signal a turn. The Ford assembly line worker with no criminal record was ordered out of his car, frisked and handcuffed while his car was searched by a drug-sniffing dog. A passenger and her baby also had to get out during the search.
No contraband was found in his 2007 Chevy Tahoe after 20 minutes, and the traffic charge was later dismissed.
In an interview with the newspaper, Johnson said he was furious because he knew there was nothing illegal inside his truck.
"I never even smoked a cigarette," he said.
Johnson said the stop and search were particularly offensive and intrusive because his friend and her baby had to stand outside in the rain.
"Did they pull me over because I have an SUV and am black?" he asked. "I can't think of any other reason."
Information from: Courier Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com