URBANA — Some Urbana City Council members disagreed Monday on the cause of racial disparity shown in new city data on Urbana Police Department traffic stops between July 1 and Nov. 20 of this year.
The data, presented by UPD crime analyst Melissa Haynes last week, said black drivers were 66 percent more likely to be stopped by police than expected given the makeup of Urbana's population.
Haynes said that percentage is "consistently higher" than for other racial groups. It was up from 62 percent during the first six months of 2017.
Alderman Eric Jakobsson said he thinks implicit bias is one factor that contributes to the disparity. UPD recently implemented implicit-bias training for officers, according to Chief Sylvia Morgan.
"We all have the tendency to like and trust people who are like us, and we have to overcome that," Jakobsson said about implicit bias. He also noted how the diversity of a police force can have an effect.
Alderman Dean Hazen said his experience in the policing field showed him that the disparity in stops stems from economics more than implicit bias from officers.
"Every human being on Earth has implicit bias," Hazen said. "This is deeply about economics ... we have too much disparity in income in this country — it's so radical."
Resident Durl Kruse spoke to the council about his review of the data, saying "the traffic-stop racial disparity seems to be the product of which streets the UPD selects to enforce traffic laws." He proposed that Morgan review less-policed areas — of similar traffic volume and accident rates to the ones most policed now — to see if they're over- or underpoliced.
"The goal is to provide traffic enforcement at equitable levels ... throughout the city based on traffic volume, conditions and accident rates alone," Kruse said. "Not the racial density of the drivers, calls for service, crime rates or a specific neighborhood."
Mayor Diane Marlin was open to Kruse's suggestion.
"I think the key in our way forward is looking very closely at the geographic location (of stops), as well as our own internal policy," Marlin said. Alderman Jared Miller agreed.
Morgan said each officer is trained to patrol their beat areas and address traffic violations as they see them.
"We don't say, 'You never stop someone at this intersection or always stop someone at that intersection,'" Morgan said.