Injustice on the Roads in Illinois

Injustice on the Roads in Illinois

Black drivers are far more likely to have their cars searched than white drivers, even though whites are likelier to have contraband.

Published July 18, 2011

It probably won't surprise you to find out that in the state of Illinois African-American drivers are more likely to have their cars searched by police than white drivers. It's a well-known fact that so-called "random" police searches are frequently less than random.


In New York City, for instance, the NYPD's notorious "stop and frisk" campaign ends up impacting minorities nine times more than whites. And like in the case of NYPD's racist frisking, the American Civil Liberties Union is not at all pleased with Illinois' biased searches. According to the ACLU, the Illinois State Police are three times likelier to search Black and Latino drivers' cars than white drivers. In response, the civil liberties group has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

"Officers just act out on their hunches," ACLU of Illinois legal director Harvey Grossman told Fox Chicago, "and it's clear that a hunch which is not based on a specific standard is subjective. And whether it is conscious or unconscious it's clear that these officers have these hunches more frequently with Black and brown drivers, and that those hunches that they have about Black and brown drivers are more likely to be wrong."

What Grossman means by "more likely to be wrong" is that, though they're searched less, white drivers are actually more likely to be found with contraband than minority drivers, according to Illinois Department of Transportation data.

If this is surprising to you, it shouldn't. Throughout the country, and in more ways than one, whites are shown leniency throughout every stage of the justice system. Take for example the fact that white teenagers are more likely than Black teenagers to be involved with drugs and alcohol. Yet despite that reality, Black kids are significantly more likely to be detained in juvenile drug cases. What leads to statistics like that, as we know from the Illinois numbers, is that police officers aren't searching for white offenders; they're searching for Black offenders. And when they find those Black offenders, they're putting them into the justice system and burdening them with records that will then haunt them for years, if not forever. Meanwhile, white kids making similar mistakes with drugs and alcohol are waltzing away unpunished.

With justice like this, it's no wonder the prisons are disproportionately populated with Black faces. The kids were never given a chance.

(Photo: Mike Brown/Landov)

Written by Cord Jefferson


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