Chicago police officers are arresting thousands more Black drivers after traffic stops than they report, according to a recent analysis of police data from Block Club Chicago and Injustice Watch.
The Chicago Police Department reported finding weapons in 388 traffic stops in 2021, according to the state’s Illinois Traffic Stop Study.
But journalists, analyzing gun arrests from that year, found more than 2,300 people were arrested on gun charges, while also being cited for a minor traffic violation during the encounter.
“A lot of civil rights advocates as well as the public defender’s office say this is likely a strategy to use pretextual traffic stops to pull over Black drivers, search their vehicles to find some kind of contraband,” said Pascal Sabino, the West Side reporter with Block Club Chicago.
Sabino reports that traffic stops by Chicago police have increased at the same time the number of gun possession arrests have. In 2014, police arrested about 2,500 adults on gun possession charges. By 2020, that number doubled to over 5,500. The stops and arrests disproportionately occur on the South and West sides.
Sabino said most of the traffic stops are for minor infractions, like driving with a busted tail light or a rolling stop. One of the people Sabino spoke with said police claimed he was obstructing traffic by quickly pulling over to wave to a friend.
Olatunji Oboi Reed, president and CEO of Equiticity, said decreasing police stops could potentially decrease police violence.
“Anytime a Black person is stopped by police, there’s a risk that that could lead to police violence,” Reed said.