Police Profiling Found in Georgetown, Adams Morgan
Thursday, February 1, 2007
D.C. police officers stopped black and Hispanic pedestrians in Georgetown and Adams Morgan at higher rates than others on the street, according to a year-long study commissioned by the police department.
The review was the department's most ambitious examination yet of racial and ethnic profiling. It found that police appear to be targeting blacks at Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW, in the heart of Georgetown, and Hispanics and blacks at 17th and Euclid streets, in the Adams Morgan core -- two of the city's biggest commercial and tourist magnets.
An outside consultant reviewed data covering traffic stops and pedestrian stops from February 2005 through January 2006 at 25 intersections across the city. The police stops were made for panhandling, jaywalking, suspicious behavior, attempted car theft and "anything a police officer could stop a pedestrian for," said John C. Lamberth, the author of the study.
The study flagged no problems at 23 locations and identified no concerns about traffic stops. But it raised questions about the pedestrian stops at the two intersections.
At Wisconsin and M, black pedestrians were nearly six times as likely to be stopped as anyone else, the study found.
At 17th and Euclid, Latino and black pedestrians were about twice as likely to be stopped as others.
Lamberth's firm -- Lamberth Consulting, based in West Chester, Pa. -- specializes in racial profiling assessment. Its report said that the findings suggest that a "limited, yet significant" number of D.C. police officers are acting "in a manner consistent with the definition of racial profiling."
The report urged police to bolster training and monitor police activities at the intersections, particularly those where most pedestrians are white. The study was first reported by WTTG-TV (Channel 5).
Acting Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she was pleased with the 23 intersections that showed no racial bias but was concerned with the other two.
"I don't want there to be a higher ratio anywhere," she said. "We're going to take steps to deal with it."
Assistant Chief Peter Newsham, who oversees the police districts that include Georgetown and Adams Morgan, said the department is in the process of improving diversity training for all officers, especially the ones who patrol those intersections. He said the department is considering calling community meetings to discuss the findings.
Former chief Charles H. Ramsey, who stepped down in December, ordered the study as part of the Biased Policing Project, which he started in 2002 to examine whether the force had a problem.