Data Show Disproportionate Contacts Between Richmond Police and African-Americans
A majority of contacts Richmond police made with pedestrians and drivers between January 2017 and October 2018 were with African-Americans, according to data the police department provided community groups over the last two months.
Black people make up 48 percent of Richmond’s population, but account for 65 percent of all contacts with law enforcement. When it comes to police interactions for curfew violations, which applies to minors, the data show African-Americans accounted for 98 percent of contacts and 82 percent for truancy. Jasmine Leeward is with Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project, the group that requested the data. It's a coalition of several community groups including Legal Aid Justice Center and New Virginia Majority.
“There’s a clear racial imbalance here, where Black people in the city of Richmond are being overpoliced,” Leeward said.
Dr. Liz Coston with the Department of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, analyzed the data for the group.
“If we take the example of curfew violations, it would be difficult to believe that the young black men violate curfew at a rate that would make them 98 percent of the violations,” Coston said.
The data comes from police field interview cards, which document interactions between police officers and citizens during the course of patrol. Not all of those interactions led to arrests.
“So it isn't clear that all of these activities were actual infractions, even if that is the initial reason for the stop,” Coston said.
Some of the other data show black people made up about 90 percent of traffic stops for warrant violations, nearly 87 percent of stops for driving without a valid driver’s license, 78 percent trespassing, 76 percent of disorderly conduct reports and 71 percent of "suspicious persons".
Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project requested the number of stops and the reason for violations with demographic information including the age, race and gender of the person stopped.
RPD initially planned to charge $4,500 for the records, but in December, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney agreed to release the data at no cost.
The department is implementing a new records management system that the group hopes will enable the department to quickly and cheaply produce this data on an ongoing basis.
Interim Police Chief William Smith is planning to address this data during a town hall some time next month.
A spokesperson for Mayor Stoney’s office said the city is conducting its own analysis of the raw data and will discuss its findings once that review is complete.