Law enforcement agencies across Illinois have been awaiting the Illinois Department of Transportation's (IDOT) report on the issue of "bias-based policing" or, more commonly, "racial profiling." The IDOT, as mandated by Governor Blagojevich and the General Assembly, was tasked with collecting data on all traffic stops conducted by Illinois law enforcement agencies. The Illinois State Police (ISP) supported the initial legislation and applauds this data collection initiative and considers it the logical first step in addressing this issue. However, the report should not be considered a panacea in determining bias-based policing. This report provides valuable insight into the actions of all law enforcement – and the ISP is eager to use it as a tool to improve our enforcement efforts, ensuring we meet our primary mission of protecting the public.
Preliminary reviews of the ISP data are encouraging, illustrating the ISP's culture of biased free policing. This culture is largely derived from a strong policy prohibiting bias-based policing and consistent diversity training. Historically, racial profiling was perceived when minorities were stopped at a higher rate than non-minorities - the report confirms no racial disparity in traffic stops by the ISP. In fact, the ISP is stopping minorities at a lower rate than expected, given the demographics of the traveling population. However, there is over-representation in the percentage of citations and searches conducted of minorities. In comparison, the state law enforcement agencies in Iowa, Missouri, and Washington, who have been collecting and studying stop card data for several years, have similar citation and search statistics to the ISP’s. Each of those states has dedicated considerable resources in an effort to understand what these statistics represent. Suffice to say, there are other variables significantly impacting an officer’s decision on whether or not to conduct a search. This over-representation, and review of other agencies’ rationale, requires additional analyses of ISP data before presenting any conclusions.
Although the overall data is favorable, the Department will move to solidify the trust between the ISP and communities we serve by implementing several initiatives targeted specifically to ensure officers are not using bias in their policing activities. These initiatives are not in response to an institutional problem, but together are the correct strategy to combat the perception of bias-based policing.
First, data collection will continue. As stated previously, this is the first step in beginning to address this issue. Second, an independent review of the ISP’s policies and training, as well as traffic stop data, will be commissioned. Third, internal, in-depth analyses will be initiated, and these subsequent results will become a staple to ensure the ISP is conducting enforcement activity fairly and effectively. Lastly, the ISP will request to convene an advisory policy board to flesh out issues surrounding this controversial topic and provide leadership for the law enforcement community.
In summary, the report does not provide empirical evidence the ISP is engaged in bias-based policing. However, some portions of the report require further scrutiny in order to gain understanding. The ISP is initiating several action items in order to ensure our enforcement activities are conducted fairly, objectively, and effectively.