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Report: Black drivers are nearly 7 times more likely to be stopped by Peoria police

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Peoria Police Department

Black drivers are far more likely to be pulled over by Peoria police than white drivers — 6.8 times more likely, to be exact.

That's according to the 2021 Illinois Traffic and Pedestrian Stop Statistical Study conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Peoria police reported 61% of traffic stops conducted last year involved Black drivers, compared to 33% for white drivers. Peoria's Black population is about 27% of the total population.

Across all races, moving violations were the most common reason for a stop. Black and white drivers had a similar breakdown by percentage of verbal warnings, written warnings, and citations issued for violations.

"If you overly enforce it against one community, you're really not improving safety, and you're actually just breaking down the ability to build trust between the police and the community, because communities understand what's happening to them," said Ed Yohnka with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

He said police are focusing too much on Black drivers in Peoria and other major Illinois cities like Springfield, Aurora, and Chicago. Statewide, Black drivers were about 1.7 times more likely to be stopped by law enforcement than white drivers.

The recognition of racial disparity in traffic stops isn't new. The IDOT report assessing traffic stops is now in its 18th year.

Yohnka said the purpose of gathering the data from law enforcement agencies is to make it a management tool by giving community leaders the information they needed to address the disparities. But that hasn't happened in a lot of cities.

"One of the things that's happened is police have looked at this data, they disagreed with something about the percentage of people of color in the driving population, or they've said, well, this doesn't really reflect what we do or made some sort of dismissive statement, and then just moved on," Yohnka said. "That doesn't really do anything for us. That doesn't really capture the kind of work that ought to be done."

Yohnka cited the City of Urbana as an example of a municipality making good practical use of the data. The city formed a committee of law enforcement, community leaders and others to address traffic stop concerns. The police department also hired a statistician to break down the data further.

"What we've seen is Urbana dramatically improve over the last several years," Yohnka said. "And I think even as they've improved, the more important thing is, it's built a dialogue between the community and law enforcement in a way that's good, not just on issues of traffic stops, but on a whole range of other issues."

The Peoria Police Department didn't respond to a request for comment on the traffic stop disparity study.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.