Urbana council considers traffic stop task force

URBANA — A city task force would review police traffic stop data for racial disparities if city council members confirm the creation of the group tonight.

Social groups in Urbana have complained for years that data compiled by the Illinois Department of Transportation show that minority drivers are getting pulled over at higher rates than white drivers. The goal of the task force would be to find out why, and they would pull more information from all kinds of sources to answer that question.

The Urbana City Council will meet tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 21) at 7 in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.

According to the most recent data from 2012, minority drivers in Urbana were 7 percent more likely to get pulled over than what would be expected if drivers were pulled over in proportion to how many drivers of each race are on the road. Minority drivers were 30 percent more likely to get pulled over in Champaign, and statewide, the disparity was 19 percent.

The numbers in the IDOT data fluctuate a bit. Urbana was at a 58 percent disparity in 2011 and 70 percent in 2010. Champaign was at 43 and 48 percent in 2011 and 2010, respectively.

IDOT has been compiling statics on police traffic stops and driver ethnicity since 2004, and social groups in Urbana have approached city officials about the disparities on several occasions.

City council members have informally supported the task force in recent weeks, and if they finalize their approval tonight, 11 people would be charged with finding out why minority drivers get pulled over at higher rates than whites.

City officials have said they believe the answer could be found through an analysis of all kinds of data — including the Urbana police department's own statistics, unemployment data, high school graduation rates and Champaign County incarceration data.

The task force, the members of which would be appointed by Mayor Laurel Prussing during the next two months, would include two statistics experts, an Urbana City Council member and eight others selected among applicants with a "knowledge and understanding of sociology, law enforcement, or other relevant experience and a demonstrated ability to be objective and respectful in dealing with people from other backgrounds, cultures and opinions."

Applicants need not live in Urbana, "but should be representative of the ethnic mix of Urbana."

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