Analysis finds minorities arrested at a higher rate than whites in Mpls.

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analysis_finds_minorities_arrested_at_higher_rate_than_whites_in_mpls-web.jpgAn analysis released May 28 by the

American Civil Liberties Union gives the most detailed picture yet of

racial disparities in the treatment of low-level offenders by

Minneapolis police.

Those arrested for non-felony offenses

in Minneapolis are far more likely to be people of color than to be

white.

The ACLU analyzed arrest data collected

over nearly three years. Most of the arrests for low-level offenses

occurred during traffic stops. Following FBI practice, the ACLU

counts as an arrest encounters where people are merely stopped,

ticketed and released.

Minneapolis police officers made nearly

100,000 non-felony arrests between Jan. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2014.

African-Americans and Native Americans were arrested at rates nearly

nine times higher than the rate for whites.

African-Americans make up less than 19

percent of the city’s population, and Native Americans just 2

percent. The arrest numbers don’t include separate categories for

Asians and Hispanics.

The disparity didn’t come as a surprise

to Henry Jackson, 55, as he stood across the street from Target Field

with a handful of tickets.

Buying and selling tickets is legal,

but Jackson, who’s African-American, has been arrested for

trespassing in the neighborhood three times since 2012.

The latest arrest happened outside

nearby Target Center in January, as he was selling tickets for a

Timberwolves game. He had stepped inside Target Center to warm his

hands, he said, when two police officers cited and released him.

Jackson said white ticket sellers could

do the same thing "all day long" without being stopped,

"but it seems like they got us singled out."

Jackson was convicted, ordered to pay a

$50 fine and given a stayed sentence of 90 days in the workhouse on

the condition that he stay out of Target Center for a year. Now he

can’t enter the venue, even as a paying customer.

An MPR News analysis of the same data

the ACLU examined found more than half the people arrested for

trespassing were black.

The ACLU report comes at a time of

intense national discussion about race, police and inequality.

Minnesota ACLU Executive Director Chuck

Samuelson sees several reasons for the disparities in Minneapolis

arrests. He blamed bias among police and among people who call the

police when they see someone they think looks suspicious.

Samuelson said the disparities also

result from policies that focus enforcement in neighborhoods with

large minority populations. The result, he said, is "just

shameful."

"We’re better than this," he

said. "We need to be better than this. And there’s no reason why

we can’t be better than this."

Samuelson said the new study is much

more detailed than an analysis the ACLU released last fall. That

report found Minneapolis had the country’s third-highest disparity in

marijuana arrest rates for African-Americans and whites.

The ACLU study found black children

made up the majority of juvenile arrests. And 88 percent of children

between the ages of 4 and 12 arrested for violating curfew were

children of color.

The new report comes on the heels of

two studies of police data released recently by the city of

Minneapolis. One found that officers rarely record the race of

people they detain but don’t arrest. The other found that whites

were more likely to call police to report black people suspected

of committing non-felony crimes like loitering.

Most people arrested were not booked

and jailed. Instead, they were given citations and ordered to go to

court.

On a recent Monday morning, dozens of

people sat quietly in one courtroom. A dozen or so waited outside in

the lobby. Nearly all of them were people of color.

"Usually they’re in court for an

entire morning," said Melissa Fraser, assistant Hennepin County

public defender.

Many people choose to plead guilty to

the offenses, Fraser said. They’ve already had to take time off work

or get child care while they wait. Fighting a charge, she said, will

bring more days of waiting in courtrooms.

Pleading guilty may bring a faster

resolution, but it can mean trouble down the road.

"If you have a disorderly conduct

conviction, that can create problems when you want to rent an

apartment, or obviously for jobs," she said.

And the need to get a job, explained

Police Chief Janeé Harteau, can lead to trouble as well.

Between 2010 and 2014, she said, one in

six drivers stopped by Minneapolis police lacked a driver’s license.

One reason, she said, is that behind-the-wheel testing sites are all

outside the city and can be hard for poor city residents to get to.

"And they need a driver’s license

to get a job," she said. "They can’t get a job because they

can’t get there. Or they get stopped because of a traffic violation

on the way to their job without a driver’s license. Now they’ve got a

misdemeanor on their arrest record."

Such traffic-related offenses accounted

for most of the arrests. The most common was driving with a revoked

driver’s license. MPR News found that nearly three-quarters of people

arrested for driving with a revoked license were African-American.

The ACLU study also addressed the

relationship between policing and poverty. The data show police

arrested homeless people more than 6,000 times during the 33 month

period.

Harteau acknowledged that police

presence is higher in areas with more violent crime. And those

neighborhoods tend to have large populations of poor people of color.

"And so it’s not surprising to me

that you’re going to have lower level offenses at a higher rate"

in those areas, she said.

Harteau said her department is making

strides toward reducing the tensions between communities of color and

the police. She recently asked for a federal audit of her

department’s disciplinary system.

Policy changes are also in the works.

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee has voted to repeal laws

against spitting on the sidewalk and lurking, laws that critics say

have been used to unfairly target people of color.

Samuelson, the Minnesota ACLU executive

director, said pressure from activists, as well as cooperation from

elected and police leaders, can all help eliminate racial

disparities.

"But we’ve got to be really

willing to try," he said. "And I have a sense that maybe,

just maybe, that’s starting."

The City Council will vote on the

proposal to repeal laws against lurking and spitting next week.

PHOTO: Minneapolis police Sgt. Jeff

Carter stopped a suspicious vehicle Thursday night, March 12, 2015,

in north Minneapolis. (Photo by Jennifer Simonson | MPR News file)

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