• September 17, 2014

Chief says race plays no part in traffic stops

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Posted: Friday, March 9, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:50 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Kim Steele

Harker Heights Herald

The City Council recently learned from the police department that racial profiling during traffic stops in the city last year was not an issue.

Police Chief Michael Gentry told the council last week that his analysis of information from 2011 showed that police did not target specific races or ethnicities during traffic stops. Gentry said the driver's race or ethnicity was known prior to the stop in only six cases.

"These numbers are very consistent with what we've had over recent past years," said Gentry. "We had no complaints about racial profiling last year, and the one complaint we had about five years ago was unfounded."

The department, which documents every traffic stop with audio and video recordings, must submit the information to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education each year.

Gentry said there were 6,528 motor vehicle stops in 2011 where drivers were issued a citation only or were both arrested and issued a citation.

Of those stops, 6,363 were citations only, and 165 were a combination of arrests and citations.

There were no arrests without citations.

Of all the traffic stops, said Gentry, 3,543 drivers were white, 1,913 drivers were black, 821 drivers were Hispanic, 164 drivers were Native American, 75 drivers were Asian, and 12 drivers were Middle Eastern.

Gentry said that overall, about 55 percent occurred with whites, 28 percent involved blacks, and 13 percent involved Hispanics.

City Councilman Pat Christ, Place 3, said he was pleased with the numbers presented and how they coincide with the racial makeup of the city and county. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Harker Heights breaks down into 62.9 percent white, 20 percent black, and 18.4 percent Hispanic.

In Bell County, the population breaks down into 61.4 percent white, 21.5 percent black, and 21.6 percent Hispanic.

Gentry many of the stops involved non-residents. He said that of the 6,528 stops, 3,042 citations were written to residents, for a total of 46.6 percent. The other 53.4 percent of the citations were written to people who lived elsewhere.

Contact Kim Steele at ksteele@kdhnews.com.

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