Robert Boyer. Study boosts sheriff's figures: Report says 850 more Hispanics were stopped, ticketed. Business News. Washington: Apr 5, 2009.
“According to state law, officers must log a report each time a vehicle is stopped and note whether the driver is Hispanic, among other things. Named after the section of federal law that created it, the illegal immigration enforcement partnership with the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement trains and deputizes local lawmen as federal agents and gives their departments access to federal immigration and criminal databases. “
Apr. 5--Between 2004 and 2008, Alamance County sheriff's deputies stopped and ticketed 850 more Hispanic drivers than Sheriff Terry Johnson recently said they did, a study from an Elon University professor shows. On Feb. 2, Johnson told the county commissioners that his deputies stopped 494 Hispanics from Jan. 1, 2004, to Dec. 1, 2008.
The figures, he insisted, show that his department isn't profiling Hispanics, as some have alleged.
The study from Elon political science Professor Laura Roselle shows that Alamance sheriff's deputies stopped and cited 1,344 Hispanics over the same five-year period, or 850 more stops than the sheriff's office reported to the State Bureau of Investigation.
Roselle said she spent several weeks analyzing and compiling raw citations she received from the Administrative Office of the Courts in Raleigh.
The information is stored in the court's Automated Criminal Infractions System.
The study Roselle supplied to the Times-News shows the names and ethnicities of those stopped, the date they were stopped, the court record number for each, and the name of the officer who conducted each stop.
The 1,344 figure represents 1,344 different stops; in other words, Hispanics charged with more than one offense during a single stop were counted only once. Although there isn't a place for ethnicity on traffic citations, Roselle said deputies listed "Hispanics" on the citations for the 1,344 stops, according to the courts information.
Johnson's figures came from information his department supplied to the SBI.
The SBI is essentially a clearinghouse for traffic stops data; local and state departments are responsible for the accuracy of such information, says Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice, which oversees the SBI.
The bureau has the traffic stop statistics on the Web at http://trafficstops.ncsbi.gov According to the site, sheriff's and county police departments are among agencies that must record traffic stop data.
According to state law, officers must log a report each time a vehicle is stopped and note whether the driver is Hispanic, among other things. The law provides no penalties, though, against agencies who fail to file or file inaccurate information.
Sheriff's spokesman Randy Jones said the sheriff's office has "become aware of some issues" regarding its traffic stop data "over the last several weeks" and has been consulting with the SBI about them.
Roselle said the Administrative Office of the Courts emailed to the sheriff's office a copy of the traffic citation information she received on March 10. The sheriff is listed as a recipient, according to a March 10 e-mail from AOC analystPatrickTamerthatRoselle forwarded to the Times-News. Jones said he is unaware of such an e-mail. The sheriff's office discovered the stoprelated issues "on our own," he said.
Jones refused to comment on the wide gap between the sheriff's and Roselle's numbers and said Johnson won't comment until someone from his office speaks to the county commissioners at a meeting on Monday."Whatever is there is going to be addressed (at the meeting)." The sheriff's office "can't properly address things," Jones added, without making a presentation to the board first, one that will touch on "software" and "computer entry issues." In recent months, Roselle and others involved with Fairness Alamance, a local group, have criticized the 287(g) program. They say it unfairly targets Hispanics and creates fear of law enforcement in the Hispanic community, among other things.
Named after the section of federal law that created it, the illegal immigration enforcement partnership with the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement trains and deputizes local lawmen as federal agents and gives their departments access to federal immigration and criminal databases.
ROSELLE SAID SHE decided to research local traffic stops because the SBI numbers "seemed off to me" and Johnson ignored her Feb. 18 e-mail to talk with her about them.
"From what people were saying out in the community, it seemed impossible that there were only two Hispanics stopped for no operator's license since 287(g) went into effect," she said. "And 494 Hispanics stopped in 5 years seemed low to me as well." The sheriff's office took on the 287 (g) program in March 2007.
Between March 1 and the end of 2007, the sheriff's office reported to the SBI that deputies stopped 32 Hispanics and cited 27.
Deputies stopped and cited 301 Hispanics over the same period, according to Roselle's research. Of those, 161, or more than half, were cited only with having no operator's license.
For all of 2008, deputies stopped 52 Hispanics and cited 31, the sheriff's office reported.
Roselle's study shows deputies stopping and citing 269 Hispanics. Of those, 148 were cited only with having no license.
The question of whether deputies are stopping Hispanic drivers for no other reason than to inquire about their licenses is significant.
Under the U.S. Constitution, officers typically need probable cause, a legal justification like an equipment or a traffic violation, before they can stop a vehicle.
Only 20 of the 269 stops deputies made came in the last three months of the year, according to the Roselle study. The drop-off began about the same time that local scrutiny of 287(g) began to mount and isn't a coincidence, the professor thinks.
In a recent report, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina concluded that Sheriff Johnson is using minor traffic stops as an excuse to arrest Hispanics and have them processed for deportation under 287(g). Such behavior, they say, strays from the program's mandate to focus on illegal immigrants who commit felonies and violent crime.
Roselle agrees, and says her study "could be the tip of the iceberg" regarding 287(g).
"In my opinion, the data suggest that a probe into potential targeting of Hispanics in Alamance County is justified," Roselle said Thursday. "I believe the sheriff's department is unfairly targeting Hispanics." But the professor stops short of flat-out accusing the sheriff of profiling.
"I don't want draw to any conclusions," she said. "I let the numbers tell me what's there."
Credit: Times-News, Burlington, N.C.