Chief: 4 in 10 traffic stops are on I-35, US82

More than 40% of the traffic stops conducted in 2019 by officers with the Gainesville Police Department were on either I-35 or U.S. 82, Police Chief Kevin Phillips says.

Phillips presented the 2019 racial profiling analysis and report to members of the Gainesville City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 4, and told them that the department made 9,592 stops in 2019.

He went on to say the report breaks those stops up by race and ethnicity. It looks at the percentages of those stops compared to each group’s proportion of the local population.

“Our percentages are all fairly close and so there is nothing there that really causes us any concern,” Phillips said.

Of the more than 9,500 people stopped in 2019, American Indian/Alaska Natives were stopped by GPD officers 20 times; Asian/Pacific Islanders were stopped 118 times; Blacks were stopped 961 times; Whites 6,850 times; and Hispanic/Latinos 1,643 times, according to Phillips’ report.

Among the challenges the department faces are the two major highways — I-35 and U.S. 82 — which run through Gainesville. Data show 43.4% of last year’s traffic stops were made on those two roadways.

“That also takes away from our demographic because it’s not necessarily what is the demographic in our town, but we’re looking at a lot of people who are traveling whether it be interstate or across our state,” Phillips said.

The population and ethnicity percentages in the report are based on the 2010 U.S. Census population of 16,002.

The report states that the data in the census 2010 column will not total 16,002 because the Hispanic/Latino data is an ethnicity and not a race classification, unlike the other categories. The differences in the percentages between the traffic stops “are minor” with the exception of that category, the report shows. Police believe that’s because of a change in demographics in the community since the last U.S. Census.

Phillips said having to use the 10-year-old U.S. Census data is another challenge. The census is conducted every 10 years. Phillips said he would be surprised if the new data being collected this year is available by next year’s report “because we do it so early in the year.”

In working with data that’s 10 years old, the agency “has to take and look and see what we think the demographics have done around us to see if we are staying consistent,” he said.

He said the report also provides the department an opportunity to look at how it’s doing.

“We think we’re doing things consistently and fairly across the board,” Phillips said.

Data also shows that officers reported they were not aware of the race or ethnicity of the driver prior to a stop 92.2% of the time. Based on the U.S. Census and traffic stop data, there is no indication that officers were engaged in any type of racial profiling, the annual report states.

The report must be filed with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement by March 1, Phillips said. He filed the report Wednesday morning, Feb. 5.

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