Racial discrimination in our policing is unacceptable and keeps us from being safe. Police need to enforce laws in a neutral way, targeting people based on evidence that they are doing something unlawful—based not on the color of their skin.
For generations, Black drivers have reported that they are more likely to be stopped by police, despite the tendency of all drivers to regularly violate some traffic law, whether it is driving one to five miles per hour over the posted speed limit or changing lanes without signaling.
In the early 2000s, as Black drivers across the country increasingly went public with reports of biased stops, state legislators enacted the Illinois Traffic Stop Statistical Study Act as a way to measure how officers were using their authority on streets and highways. The 2003 bill, sponsored by then-state senator Barack Obama, was made permanent by legislators in 2019. This law requires every law enforcement officer in Illinois to record and report data about every traffic stop they execute—data that includes the race of the driver, the reason for the stop, and the outcome of the stop. Every law enforcement agency in the state must forward the data each year to the Illinois Department of Transportation, which produces a report that includes an analysis of the data.
Since the first report in 2005, we have seen persistent racial disparities in the rates at which Illinois law enforcement officers stop drivers and search their cars. And when the collection and reporting of pedestrian stop data was added in 2016, we saw these patterns continue.
It is critical that local law enforcement leaders examine and analyze the data for their jurisdiction, and commit to using training, enhanced oversight, and community engagement to eliminate policing that results in such dramatic racial disparities.
The Illinois Traffic Stop Statistical Study Act collects the following information for each stop:
- Gender and race of the driver
- Alleged violation or reason
- Result of stop
- Date, time & location
- Officer name & badge number
- Make and year of the vehicle
- If consent search was requested or conducted
- If dog sniff and subsequent search performed
- Whether and what kind of contraband found