Tag Archives: drivers

Study: Racial disparities found in police traffic stops

A study of statewide police traffic stops in Vermont, the second-whitest state in the country, has found racial disparities in how police treat drivers.

Black drivers were four times more likely than whites to be searched after traffic stops, and Hispanic drivers were nearly three times more likely, according to the University of Vermont study, Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont. At the same time, black and Hispanic drivers were less likely than white and Asian drivers to be found with contraband that leads to an arrest or citation, according to the report, which was based on 2015 data.

Black and Hispanic drivers also were more likely than white drivers to get traffic tickets versus warnings, and black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested after stops, the study said.

“Almost all of the agencies in our study exhibit disparities in traffic policing to one degree or another,” said study co-author Stephanie Seguino, a professor in the university’s Department of Economics. “In other words, the results are not uniquely attributable to one or two agencies, but it’s really a widespread problem in terms of policing.”

One of the reasons some police officers use to explain the higher rate of searches of black drivers versus white drivers is concerns about the opioid crisis and drugs coming in from out of state, and there’s a racial component to those perceptions, Seguino said. But the study found white and Asian drivers were more likely than black or Hispanic drivers stopped to be found with contraband.

Vermont, which has a population of about 625,000, was 94.8 percent white the year the policing study was done, according to U.S. Census figures. Only Maine, at 94.9 percent, was whiter. Blacks made up 1.3 percent of the Vermont population, Hispanics 1.8 percent and Asians 1.6 percent.

The study looked at traffic stop data from 29 departments across Vermont, following a 2014 state law that required police to collect such race information. But many agencies had missing data in key categories, said co-author Nancy Brooks, of Cornell University, who said more work is needed to improve the data quality.

Police treatment of drivers varied among departments, the study found.

In Rutland, for example, police searched black drivers at a rate of more than six times that of white drivers while white drivers searched were found with contraband at a higher rate than black drivers.

Rutland police Chief Brian Kilcullen, who has been on the job since November 2015, said he was somewhat surprised by the findings.

“You start with awareness, and that’s what this does,” he said of the report, adding that the police department has done training sessions.

Burlington police Chief Brandon del Pozo said his department is seeing an improvement in the rate at which searches lead to contraband, called the hit rate, meaning police are doing fewer unnecessary searches.

To reduce the racial disparities, the report’s authors recommend creating a standardized system for collecting data, giving officers feedback on their performance during stops, supporting police departments in giving frequent training sessions on bias and monitoring disparities annually.

Library system celebrates 40 years of expansive support

Each year, drivers for the Madison-based South Central Library System travel enough miles to circle the equator 14 times as they deliver books and other loaned materials throughout Wisconsin. 

The system recently completed its 40th year of providing service to member libraries and the state. 

“Systems traditionally have operated kind of behind the scenes,” says consulting services coordinator Mark Ibach. “People don’t really know about us.”

Not every state has systems of networked libraries. Minnesota does. Illinois does not. Wisconsin has 17, most of which encompass several counties. Milwaukee County’s system is the largest. 

The South Central Library System is the second largest, serving more than 60 libraries in Adams, Columbia, Dane, Green, Portage, Wood and Sauk counties. SCLS is also responsible for moving materials among statewide libraries, as well as University of Wisconsin campuses.

And it does a number of other things too, although the system’s primary intent is more prosaic. “In Wisconsin, systems are the vehicle for how state money goes to libraries,” Ibach says.

This year, around $15 million will be distributed statewide, of which SCLS will receive $2.6 million. How much each system receives is calculated on the basis of population and geographic area.

“The intent of systems really is to take that state aid and do the things that libraries really can’t do on their own, or that don’t make sense for them to do on their own,” according to Ibach.

For example, SCLS combines member libraries’ collections in LINKcat, an online catalog. LINKcat essentially creates a single, massive library totaling 798,000 square feet — that’s nearly 14 football fields of shelves — housing more than 2.8 million books, 7,300 periodical subscriptions, 247,000 audio recordings and 369,000 videos.

LINKcat makes all of those materials easy to access, Ibach says, “so that residents in Stevens Point can put something on hold and get it from Monroe a few days later, and it’s the delivery that makes it work.”

Delivery sorting is a minor miracle, performed daily by hand. Four or five trucks arrive from the field, each full of red baskets of materials, each item with a sticky-note address. “They start taking stuff out and, in 25, 30 minutes, it’s all sorted out and going into other trucks. It’s really pretty amazing.”

Besides email service for its member libraries, SCLS also provides and supports most of their computers. “We have a group of technicians here. We do the purchasing for the libraries, we service the computers, we repair them, we upgrade software — all of that kind of activity,” Ibach explains.

But perhaps the most striking elements of SCLS service are its kits and programming.

The kits are for hands-on learning and just plain fun. Libraries can borrow and make available to their users six sewing machines, a 3-D printer, a 3-D scanner and an array of other equipment, including microscopes, electronics, robotics, animation equipment and LEGOs. All are provided to libraries at no cost.

SCLS also provides for youth services programs, artist and author visits, and classes of all kinds — for the public and for library staffers.

“Library directors in Wisconsin have a certification process every so many years,” Ibach notes. “They have to have taken a certain number of hours of credits to keep their certification active.”

SCLS has a staff of about 50, including a variety of consultants. Staffers help maintain databases, paperwork, youth services, outreach, accessibility, building projects, graphics and printing. 

“All the libraries are so different,” Ibach says. “Every one of them serves a distinct community. They all have their own challenges. To try and help them all do what they need to do, and provide the resources to do that, is hard. But that’s really what we try to do.”

The governor’s budget cuts have taken a toll on Wisconsin library systems. At SCLS, “we lost about $240,000 out of our budget, and that remains a challenge,” Ibach says. Staff has been decreased.

Still, “I think everyone here is really committed to the work we do, and very passionate about providing good service to our member libraries,” Ibach says. “That really is our goal. That’s the reward — knowing that they’re able to do what they need to do.” 

On the Web

For more information, visit www.scls.info. 

71-year-old motorist arrested for anti-lesbian road rage

A Pierce County, Wash., prosecutor says a 71-year-old Tacoma man accused of attacking and threatening a woman after rear-ending her vehicle has been charged with assault and malicious harassment.

Prosecutor Mark Lindquist says William Zesbaugh apparently was angered because he thought the woman had cut him off in traffic on Jan. 28 as she and a female passenger drove toward a ferry terminal.

When the woman approached the other car after the collision to get insurance information, the prosecutor says the driver went to his trunk, grabbed a club-like steering wheel locking device and struck the woman twice. A ferry employee intervened to stop the attack.

Lindquist says the man then told the victim and her passenger, “I can tell you’re lesbians” and “I’m gonna get you for this.”

Lu-Ann Branch told KOMO-TV the gash on her arm required 11 stitches.

The man was arraigned on Jan. 29.