Why Traffic Stops Are Far More Dangerous If You Are Black

Wendell Pierce, an actor who stars in Ray Donovan, recently appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and recounted his extremely intense run-in with a police officer while being pulled over in Louisiana.

His story is hardly an isolated case. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Justice Statistics, black drivers are twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested during a traffic stop. A 2005 study from Florida State University also found that white police officers "were statistically more likely to let armed white suspects slip while shooting unarmed black suspects." The National Black Police Association suggests that diversifying police forces from top to bottom is the best way to enhance racial sensitivity and prevent tense situations like Pierces'. As we learned in Ferguson, Missouri, there were only three black officers on their 53-member force-- roughly 6% of the police in a town that’s over 60% black.

There is also federal legislation to help curb racist policing practices. The End Racial Profiling Act, sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (MI) and Senator Ben Cardin (MD), would train federal law enforcement officials on racial profiling issues, collect data on all investigative activities of the Department of Justice, and require the attorney general to make periodic reports assessing the nature of discriminatory policing in America.

As Congressman Conyers said upon introducing his legislation, “decades ago, in the face of shocking violence, the passage of sweeping civil rights legislation made it clear that race should not affect the treatment of an individual American under the law. I believe that thousands of pedestrian and traffic stops of innocent minorities and the killing of innocent teen calls for a similar federal response. The practice of using race as a criterion in law enforcement undermines the progress we have made toward racial equality." To learn more about the legislation, click here.