The Long Silence

How did county police officials respond to a damaging report on racial profiling? They didn't

This study was exhaustively researched. All Miami-Dade officers in patrol cars were issued "contact" forms they had to fill out after every traffic stop, indicating the driver's race, the reason for the stop, and more. Those forms were turned over to the researchers. In addition University of Miami student volunteers rode with many officers and provided observer reports on what occurred when an officer pulled over a car. The researchers also identified major intersections in predominately black, Hispanic, and white neighborhoods throughout the county and looked at crash and ticket data from those locations, comparing them to the contact forms and census data.

That front end of the report showed no pattern of racial profiling. I'm told all elements dovetailed: The observational data compared to the traffic/crash data compared to the contact forms -- all showed there was no emphasis on pulling over black drivers. In fact the observational data indicated it was nearly impossible to ascertain a motorist's race while driving behind a car.

But the report did show anomalous and disturbing treatment of black drivers once a stop had been made.

Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker will have to answer some 
tough questions, including whether he tried to suppress bad news
The Miami Herald
Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker will have to answer some tough questions, including whether he tried to suppress bad news

County Mayor Carlos Alvarez was the police director when the study began, but he resigned to run for office before it was completed and says through a spokeswoman that he does not know the contents. The current police director, Robert Parker, who is black, does know its contents. Interestingly he was head of the department's patrol division during the years the research was conducted. No doubt he's dreading the report's release and the questions he'll have to answer.

Here's the suspicious part: In anticipation of receiving the final report, police officials announced they were prepared to present it to the county commission. But after the Alpert Group actually submitted it in November, complete with the post-traffic-stop data, the cops canceled the show. Recalls Eduardo Diaz: "They contacted me in October and announced a November release date in front of the county commission. Then they rescinded that date. I remember being disappointed. I very much want to see the report."

The ACLU is so frustrated by the apparent stonewalling that last week the organization's Rosalind Matos sent a letter of complaint to Carey-Shuler. "The last Racial Profiling Advisory Board meeting was on June 18, 2003, almost two years ago," Matos wrote. "Since that day the Advisory Board has been kept uninformed about the status of the report and about new developments. In an email dated August 11, 2004, Dr. Alpert indicated that his group was ready to make a presentation to the [Advisory] Board and County Commission and that MDPD was in the process of setting up the next racial profiling advisory board meeting. This anticipated meeting has been cancelled at least two times and has not been rescheduled."

Department spokeswoman Linda O'Brien insists police brass have not delayed the release of the report because of its contents. "That's absolutely untrue," she says, adding the department hopes to make its presentation in May. Better late than never. Too much money and interest were invested in the study for people to forget. If anything, the long silence has only heightened concern and fueled suspicions -- suspicions police director Robert Parker must now confront.

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