‘Wide’ racial disparities discovered in Montgomery Co. police stops

Data on policing in Maryland’s Montgomery County reveals broad racial disparities in the way police engage with the public, including when initiating traffic stops, issuing citations and making arrests.

A report dated July 21 from the Office of Legislative Oversight showed that although Black residents make up 18% of Montgomery County’s population, they were subject to 32% of all traffic stops and 55% of cases in which an officer used force throughout 2018.

“A lot of this information is not gathered at the level we need … to fully be able to assess what’s going on,” said County Council member Gabe Albornoz. “What has been gathered causes significant concern.”

African Americans accounted for 44% of all arrests Montgomery County police conducted in 2017, the report showed. It also found Black men were three times as likely as white men to receive any traffic violation in 2019, and Latino men were nearly twice as likely as white men.

“Available data demonstrates wide disparities in police-public interactions by race and ethnicity in the county, especially for traffic stops and violations, arrests, and use of force,” it stated.

“While disparities do not prove biased policing, they signal that unconstitutional policing could be a problem that merits investigation.”

The findings were used to make several recommendations, including that the Montgomery County Police Department expand its capacity to record and utilize policing data.

“Improved collection and monitoring of MCPD policing data is warranted to evaluate and monitor for constitutional and community policing,” the report stated.

Police in Montgomery County currently collect race data during traffic stops, but do not do the same for street stops.

The report also suggested the department “regularly survey residents and staff on police-community relations and contact.”

Albornoz said the report “provides a degree of evidence that there is an underlying bias, whether we want to admit it or not.”

In June, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich called for a top-to-bottom review of the police department, including its hiring process, how officers are recruited, training, promotions and even how officers are evaluated.

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