Tuesday, February 28, 2012

If You’re Trans, You Know This

I have a number of trans-friends who were stopped for minor traffic violations and they tell me that they fear being pulled over, that you never know how the officer will treat you. I know a black trans-man who lives in a white neighborhood and before his transition when as a black woman when “she” walked to the bus stop “she” was never questioned by the police, but as a black man, he was routinely questioned why he was in the neighborhood.

The Hartford Courant and Fox61 News looked into racial bias in police stops.
Unequal Enforcement: Black, Hispanic Drivers Faced Tougher Treatment From Police
Hartford Courant/Fox61 News
By Matthew Kauffman
February 25, 2012

Black and Hispanic drivers stopped by police across Connecticut are significantly more likely to leave the encounter with a ticket or a court date than are white motorists pulled over for the same offense, a first-ever analysis of state data shows.

From running stop signs to busted taillights, an analysis by the Courant of more than 100,000 traffic stops by dozens of local departments in 2011 found widespread disparity in how racial and ethnic minorities are treated.

Blacks and Hispanics fared especially poorly when stopped for equipment-related violations. Among nearly 4,000 stops related to the display or use of license plates, for example, 13 percent of white motorists left with a citation, compared with 27 percent of black drivers and 36 percent of Hispanics.

For more than 2,600 stops involving improper taillights, black motorists were twice as likely and Hispanics nearly four times as likely to be ticketed, compared to white drivers.
"This is beyond profiling. This goes to actually a level of discrimination, and who gets the wink and who doesn't get the wink," he said. "An officer can make a decision on whether or not to give a ticket, and it seems they've landed on a decision that if you're a minority, you're going to get a ticket."

The disparity was evident in stops as serious as speeding and running red lights, and as mundane as being overdue for an emissions inspection. Among the findings:

--Stops for traffic-signal violations led to citations for 26 percent of white motorists, compared to 30 percent of black drivers and 42 percent of Hispanics.

--For violations of state laws on tinted windows, white motorists were ticketed 12 percent of the time. For blacks and Hispanics, the figure was 17 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

--Among drivers stopped for an improper turn or stop, blacks were nearly 50 percent more likely to be ticketed than whites. Hispanics were twice as likely.
What is interesting is that the Courant last week had a poll that asked the question, “The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new case challenging the constitutionality of affirmative action. Is it time to end race-based preferences?” and 36% said yes it is time to end affirmative action. I would have loved to see how that was broken down by race and income.

I get in debates with friends over racial profiling and they say it is necessary and I say that by profiling there are two effects of profiling, first you are less likely to catch a person who does not fit the profile and second it becomes self-filling. From the data that the article looked at, you can say, “see, minority drivers are bad drivers so therefore we should charge them more for car insurance”. Or it could also lead to more drug arrest because they stop more minority drivers; meanwhile other drivers are not stopped as often and would have less drug arrests.

At a support group meeting, a member at one of the meetings said that one night she was waiting for her daughter at a park and ride. The daughter was coming back from college and a friend was going to drop her off at the park and ride just off the highway. While the trans-woman was waiting for her daughter, a state police officer spied her sitting in the car and asked her what she was waiting there for. She told them that she waiting for her daughter and he accused her of waiting for a “John”, by then three more polices cars arrived. They ordered her out of her and she complied, then one of the officers took out a camera and was going to take her picture. When she protested about them taking the picture and she said that she was doing nothing wrong, they arrested her for “Disorderly Conduct”. They took her to the station and booked her. Meanwhile, her daughter arrived and found her father’s car empty and called her mother. They panicked and called the local police, who knew nothing because it was the state police that arrested her. It wasn’t until she was she was released on her own recognizance that they knew where she was. When she was telling her story at the support group, she had already spent almost a thousand dollars on a lawyer. This all happened just because she is trans and was sitting in a parking lot.

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