When it comes to racially lopsided arrests, the most remarkable thing about Ferguson, Mo., might be just how ordinary it is.
Police in Ferguson — which erupted into days of racially charged unrest after a white officer killed an unarmed black teen — arrest black people at a rate nearly three times higher than people of other races.
At least 1,581 other police departments across the USA arrest black people at rates even more skewed than in Ferguson, a USA TODAY analysis of arrest records shows. That includes departments in cities as large and diverse as Chicago and San Francisco and in the suburbs that encircle St. Louis, New York and Detroit.
Those disparities are easier to measure than they are to explain. They could be a reflection of biased policing; they could just as easily be a byproduct of the vast economic and educational gaps that persist across much of the USA — factors closely tied to crime rates. In other words, experts said, the fact that such disparities exist does little to explain their causes.
“That does not mean police are discriminating. But it does mean it’s worth looking at. It means you might have a problem, and you need to pay attention,” said University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris, a leading expert on racial profiling.
Whatever the reasons, the results are the same: Blacks are far more likely to be arrested than any other racial group in the USA. In some places, dramatically so.
At least 70 departments scattered from Connecticut to California arrested black people at a rate 10 times higher than people who are not black, USA TODAY found.
“Something needs to be done about that,” said Ezekiel Edwards, the head of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, which has raised concerns about such disparate arrest rates. “In 2014, we shouldn’t continue to see this kind of staggering disparity wherever we look.”
Let’s take a look at the local numbers.
- CMPD employed 2,490 officers, making up 71.1 pct. of the department
- 1,770 of them were white
- 500 were black, 170 were Hispanic and none of them were Asian.
Also in 2010:
- The Charlotte population totaled more than 730,000.
- 329,545 people were white, making up 45.1 pct. of the city.
- 252,007 were black, 95,688 were Hispanic, 36,115 were Asian.
Based on the 2011-2012 arrest rate per 1,000 residents, the numbers show:
141.5 pct. black rate
31.9 pct. non-black rate