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Chicago Police Stopped Black Drivers 5 Times More Often Than White Drivers In 2021, State Report Says

The number of traffic stops in Chicago has increased exponentially since 2015, following a lawsuit settlement that restricted the use of stop-and-frisk.

The Cermak-Chinatown CTA Red Line stop with the Chicago skyline and rush hour traffic on Feb. 9, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Police officers throughout Illinois are pulling over Black drivers far more often than white drivers, but the disparities in Chicago remain far above the state average, a recent report shows.

Law enforcement officers stopped Black drivers at 1.7 times the rate of white drivers statewide in 2021, according to annual data collected by police agencies and reported to the Illinois Department of Transportation as part of the Illinois Traffic and Pedestrian Stop Statistical Study Act.

In Chicago, police pulled over Black drivers at more than five times the rate they stopped white drivers, the report shows.

“Black drivers from across the state have raised concerns for years that police are more likely to stop them than white drivers — that remains true based on this data,” said Joshua Levin, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. 

Several other cities have similarly stark disparities, the report shows:

  • Black drivers in Bloomington were 4.7 times more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers.
  • Black drivers in Peoria were stopped at 6.8 times the rate of white drivers.
  • Black drivers in Aurora were stopped at seven times the rate of white drivers.

Then-state Sen. Barack Obama launched the annual study in 2004 to uncover racial bias in traffic enforcement and hold police accountable for using tactics that target drivers of color.

But vast racial disparities in traffic stops have not improved over the years.

The number of traffic stops in Chicago has also increased exponentially since 2015, following a settlement between the city and ACLU Illinois that restricted the use of the controversial pedestrian stop-and-frisk policing strategy.

Chicago police conducted about 85,000 traffic stops in 2015, ballooning to nearly 600,000 in 2019.

In 2021, Chicago officers conducted 377,899 traffic stops, the report shows.

Chicago officers stopped nearly 238,000 Black drivers last year, compared to just 43,610 white drivers.

Officers disproportionately stopped drivers in Black neighborhoods on the South and West sides, according to the data Chicago police reported to the state. That same dynamic plays out with bicyclists in Black neighborhoods, Block Club Chicago detailed in 2021.

RELATED: Cops Rarely Pull Over Drivers In Their Own Neighborhoods, Data Shows. Motorists In Black Neighborhoods Aren’t So Lucky

Police leaders must explain to the public how they will change department policies to solve these racial inequalities, Levin said.

Since drivers of color are “more likely to be stopped by police, they are more likely to experience invasive questioning, searches, humiliation and, all too often, tragic violence at the hands of police,” Levin said.

Asked for comment, police spokesman Don Terry provided a statement nearly identical to what officials said in 2021, when the state report showed Chicago officers were stopping Black drivers seven times more often than white drivers.

“The Chicago Police Department remains committed to ensuring residents are treated equally, fairly and with respect,” according to the Police Department statement. “Officers are trained to stop vehicles after a traffic violation or potential crime has occurred. We do not target individuals based on race. Additionally, enforcement action, which includes traffic stops, are informed by crime data and calls for service.”

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