A new study out of Eastern Washington University found African Americans and Native Americans were significantly more likely to be stopped by a Spokane Police officer.
The Spokane Police Department willingly participated in the study, officials said, because they were interested in the findings.
The study, from Eastern Washington University Professor Dr. Edward Byrnes and Spokane Police Department Capt. Brad Arleth, compiled data of arrests, stops, searches and incidents of use of force to find if minorities are disproportionately contacted by police.
The study also compared data city-wide and in high crime areas.
“The racial makeup of a neighborhood and it being high indexed crime neighborhood, those are not a one-to-one correspondence in the City of Spokane,” explained Byrnes.
If a neighborhood is getting more calls for service, SPD send more officers to that area.
“This neighborhood may have more reported crime by citizens, so we deploy more officers there and then who are we contacting there,” explained Arleth. “So there's so many subtleties to this, so that is the reason to sit down with community members a have a discussion about, here is the state of our contact numbers what is this driven by, what is this generated by and what does this mean for both side, for law enforcement and for citizens."
The study found African Americans and Native Americans were significantly more likely to be stopped by an officer. They are also more likely to be searched or arrested compared to other racial groups.
Native Americans were also more likely to experience a use of force incident. Pacific Islanders were more likely to be arrested for a new charge.
"The disproportionality issue is not something we can look at say well ok, we expect it to track downward, in 12 months, in 24 months, you know like you would see a mortgage payment go down or like you would see your credit score go up,” Arleth said.
While the student looked at the numbers, it did not look at the reason behind why some groups are more likely to be contacted. The researchers said they believe a community discussion needs to take place.
Considering the student, researchers are recommending that the Spokane City Council put together a committee to look at the ways to address the racial disproportion in contacts with officers.
Spokane Police said the results likely won't change anything for them internally, but do think a bigger discussion on the issue is important.