Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott said there needs to be an honest conversation about racial bias when it comes to police in Louisville.
“With a police force that’s 85 percent white we cannot act like there is no racial bias, at all, that’s just not realistic,” she told WFPL on Friday.
Scott said the results of a yearlong study that examined the use of bias when Louisville police make traffic stops gave her “pause.”
The study shows that African American drivers aren’t necessarily pulled over more than white or Hispanic drivers, but they are subject to search and arrest following a traffic stop at a higher rate than other residents.
Scott, who represents District 1, said the fact that African Americans are nearly twice as likely to be searched following a traffic stop as white drivers is “indeed a disparity that has to be addressed further.”
Chief Steve Conrad said the higher rates of vehicle searches for African American drivers stems from higher rates of probable cause associated with vehicle stops involving African Americans.
Standing outside his Beecher Terrace apartment Friday afternoon, 29-year-old Dominique Frierson said he can’t accept that answer. He said the color of his skin and the style of his clothes are the probable cause. And he said that needs to stop.
“I see a lot of racial profiling, everyday,” Frierson said. “They need to change their whole system.”
Frierson has lived in Beecher Terrace since 2003 and said he doesn’t feel comfortable when he drives his car. He said he is too likely to get stopped by police.
“They think I’m a gang banger and they think I’m a drug dealer, which I ain’t, I work for a living like everybody else,” he said.
He said he believes the chances are high that any young African American man driving a car in or around Beecher Terrace or elsewhere in west Louisville will get pulled over by police.
“Thinking they’re selling drugs, when they’re not,” Frierson said.
He said Conrad shouldn’t work under the assumption police work is “kosher.”
“And it’s not,” he added. “They’re always pulling somebody over.
“He needs to come out here and talk to people my age and get our input. It’s always the younger generation that get’s profiled and get pulled over, and not everybody is doing something.”
And the study results show that drivers between the ages of 20-30 years old do, indeed, get pulled over more than other drivers.
Scott said she’s hopeful Conrad will address the Metro Council’s public safety committee about the study. She said the study may be rich with data, but it is lacking with the stories behind the data and the anecdotal evidence that leads to claims of racial profiling.
“Because there wouldn’t be any need for us to fund a $55,000 study on vehicle stops based on race if we weren’t getting complaints from people and if it wasn’t a concern for folks,” she said.
Scott said to get a real, honest idea of whether Louisville Metro Police officers have a racial bias when dealing with residents, a study must go beyond traffic stops.
“Interactions with police are more than just vehicle based,” she said. “We need to have a broader scope for this kind of study.”
WFPL’s Joseph Lord contributed to this story.