Strongsville civic group calls on council to act on perceived racial bias at traffic stops

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STRONGSVILLE, Ohio – Black drivers received about 15% of all tickets and traffic warnings last year in Strongsville, and 9.9% in 2019, even though black residents make up 2.5% of the population from the city.

Local political group Indivisible Strongsville presented the numbers to city council on July 19. The data comes from the Strongsville Police Department’s 2020 and 2019 Annual Reports, which are posted on the city’s website.

“It appears to us that black drivers are being unfairly fined by Strongsville police, at a rate six times that of white drivers in Strongsville,” Strongsville resident Russ Smith told council, reading a letter signed “Independent. Strongsville “.

Police Chief Mark Fender did not dispute the statistics, but told cleveland.com they were not being interpreted correctly. He said Strongsville’s population numbers did not relate to the demographic distribution of people getting tickets and warnings in town.

“With the number of people coming to our area (SouthPark Mall), retail stores, restaurants and business parks, we have no way of measuring the magnitude of this huge increase (in traffic coming from there). ‘out of town during the day), not to mention the race and gender of those who drive, ”Fender said in an email to cleveland.com.

However, Beverly Masek – head of Indivisible Strongsville – said the percentage of black drivers receiving traffic tickets compared to the percentage of black residents in the city is a “flashing red light” that merits further study.

“If you can’t explain the disparity, you need more data,” Masek told cleveland.com. “It might have nothing to do with the number of people, and it could be people coming in and out of town (getting tickets and warnings), but we don’t know. “

“We’re not saying anyone is racist, but we want to know why this is happening, by seeing the statistics,” Masek said.

City council members and Mayor Thomas Perciak did not return emails seeking comment.

Indivisible Strongsville is a local affiliate of Indivisible, which was formed in 2016 to oppose Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and now promotes progressive ideals and political candidates.

By the numbers

In its letter to the board, Indivisible Strongsville noted that the 2019 U.S. Census of Population estimate was 44,660, with black residents making up 2.5% of the population.

According to statistics collected by the Strongsville Police Department, officers issued 6,017 tickets or warnings to white drivers in 2019. The numbers were 721 for black drivers, 77 for Asian and Pacific Island drivers, eight for Native American or Alaska Native drivers and 432 for those of unknown race.

If black drivers had received 2.5% of tickets / warnings to match their percentage of the Strongsville population, they should have received 181 tickets / warnings, not 721, Indivisible Strongsville said.

In 2020, officers issued 2,857 tickets or warnings to white drivers in 2019. The numbers were 572 for black drivers, 16 for Asian and Pacific Islander drivers, three for Native American and Alaskan drivers, and 229 for those of unknown race.

Black drivers should have been expected to receive 92 tickets / warnings, not 572, Indivisible Strongsville said.

Strongsville Police have been tracking demographics because the department is part of the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Relations, created by Governor John Kasich in 2014. The idea was to establish police standards across the board. state, including those dealing with the use of lethal weapons. recruiting and hiring force and employees.

Nearly 500 law enforcement agencies, including 51 in Cuyahoga County, have joined the collaboration, according to the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services website.

“The Strongsville Police Department was among the first law enforcement agencies to seek accreditation as part of the collaboration,” Fender told cleveland.com. “We started the process in 2016 and officially announced our participation in 2017.”

The collaboration requires member police departments to collect data, including the race and gender of drivers arrested for possible traffic violations.

Fender said Strongsville Police have met several standards of collaboration, including those relating to responding to protests and demonstrations, responding to vehicular chases, investigating employee misconduct, providing non-biased policing. , telecommunications training, body cameras, use of force, recruiting and hiring, community involvement. and welfare agency.

Meetings & recommendations

Smith said he met Charles Goss, Strongsville’s director of security, in March to discuss statistics and request additional data. He said Goss sent a follow-up email to Indivisible Strongsville saying the police needed the council’s direction to dig further.

In the June 2 email, Goss said the police department’s automated record keeping system was not providing the type of information Smith was looking for.

So, on July 19, Indivisible Strongsville in its letter recommended that the board:

· Ask Strongsville Police to review their citation / warning and traffic stopping practices;

· Ask the police to analyze their citations / warnings statistics and explain the outside number of citations / warnings given to black drivers. The data should include the race, age and place of residence of arrested drivers; the time and place of the violation; the type of offense; and the officer issuing the summons;

· Demand that the police post their findings on the city’s website and present the information to city council;

· Provide funds to the police to hire external consultants to perform the analysis.

Read more of the Sun Star Mail.


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