Consent Searches Biased?

Article excerpt

Byline: Associated Press

Civil rights groups on Thursday asked Gov. Rod Blagojevich to bar state police from conducting consent searches during traffic stops, citing four years of data that show minorities are searched more often than whites.

In 2007, minorities underwent consent searches u when police ask drivers for permission to look in their vehicles u at a rate 2 1/2 times that of white drivers, according to an analysis of data reported by police agencies throughout the state. Contraband, such as drugs or guns, was discovered almost twice as often among white drivers as among minorities.

"YouEre talking about hundreds and hundreds of black and Latino drivers being subjected to consent searches," Harvey Grossman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, part of an eight-member coalition of civil rights groups asking for a halt to such searches.

"WeEre hopeful the governor will get rid of them."

Even so, consent searches made up less than 1 percent of all traffic stops in 2007, according to the analysis, completed by Northwestern UniversityEs Center for Public Safety. The study analyzed 2.4 million traffic stops reported by 939 police agencies statewide.

Minority drivers were 10 percent more likely to be stopped on Illinois roads than white drivers, according to

the 2007 data, but that figure is at its lowest level since 2004.

Gov. Rod BlagojevichEs office and the Illinois State Police said Thursday they havenEt seen the coalitionEs request and didnEt have an immediate response. …