Metro Transit. Photo: Eric Wheeler
MINNEAPOLIS — Blacks and American Indians are far more likely to be ticketed than warned by Metro Transit police for fare evasion, according to an agency review that unearthed “troubling” disparities in the way some minorities are treated by law enforcement on public transit, reported the StarTribune.
The analysis of light-rail and bus passengers was conducted by Metro Transit after the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union submitted a request for public data following several high-profile incidents involving police and people of color earlier this year, the report said.
Data collected from January 2014 through August involving 7,136 arrests and citations indicate that American Indians are 152% more likely and black adults are 26% more likely to be cited for first-time fare evasion than their white counterparts, according to the StarTribune.
"This study demonstrates a clear and compelling need to investigate the reasons behind these disparities in our policing," GM Brian Lamb said. "These disparities cannot be ignored and we must hold ourselves accountable. It is important that we work in partnership with our community to come to a deeper understanding of these statistics and how we improve our policing practices."
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Taking Action to Address Racial Disparities
Based on the data collected in this study, and building on training efforts already underway, MTPD will continue its efforts to build an agency that is both responsive to and reflective of the communities it serves. MTPD is also in ongoing conversations with the NAACP of Minneapolis about potential changes to the police force’s policies and procedures.
Efforts already underway by MTPD include:
- Disabilities training for officers – Training officers to safely, fairly and equitably treat people with disabilities. The most recent graduating class of police officers have undergone additional training regarding working with people who may be Autistic. This training will be incorporated into all future officer training.
- Impartial policing classes – Training officers to be fair and impartial in their policing practices amongst all people, including people of color. This training has been scheduled for all officers and will also be incorporated into future training.
- Examining best practices – Metro Transit will examine best practices at similar transit-oriented police forces across the country and consider implementing those tactics to help ensure fair, unbiased policing.
- Diversifying the police department – Metro Transit Police officers are 35 percent diverse, which is one of the most diverse law enforcement agencies in the state. Many officers have taken Spanish classes and will also be taking Somali language classes.
In response to the study and discussions with the NAACP, MTPD is undertaking these additional efforts to address disparities in its treatment of people of color:
- Directive regarding first-time fare evaders – Earlier this month, Chief Harrington directed all MTPD officers to follow a policy of issuing warnings to all people on their first encounter with fare evasion.
- Comprehensive examination of policies and procedures – MTPD has asked the Minneapolis-based Council on Crime and Justice, a non-profit organization committed to building a criminal justice system that is equitable and just, to conduct a comprehensive examination of the Department’s policies and procedures and recommend improvements to ensure racial equity in MTPD policing practices.
- Seeking community input – Metro Transit will work with community leaders to plan a series of meetings where community members and leaders can share their experiences and offer suggestions for needed changes.
Once feedback is gathered from the Council on Crime and Justices and community meetings, recommendations will be presented to members of the Metropolitan Council for consideration.
"The Metropolitan Council touches people’s lives all throughout our region," said Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck. "We are committed to addressing equity both internally and externally. We can’t help the region thrive if only some in the community are prospering. The disparities we see in employment, education, housing, life expectancies, and in this case, the criminal justice system, hold our region back from being exceptional. I’m looking forward to the community’s recommendations on how we serve the region more equitably."
Within a year of any changes being implemented, those changes and data similar to these will again be reviewed and the results will be publicly reported.