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“Driving While Black”: How Does Race Factor Into DUI Stops in Indiana?

“Driving While Black” is an ironic description of an experience countless African Americans motorists have endured when they are pulled over by police officers for no apparent reason other than their skin color. Such racial profiling happens in every state in the nation, including Indiana.

Public attention has recently turned to whether the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) unfairly targets black communities in seeking DUI arrests. In August 2019, the IMPD set up DUI checkpoints through the city. However, many people questioned whether there were racial undertones in how the police established these checkpoints. Studies in other cities, such as Chicago, have shown that police departments tend to set up DUI checkpoints in predominately black neighborhoods, despite these areas having significantly lower instances of DUI related accidents.

But it is unclear whether the same racial disparities exist in Indianapolis as investigators, such as Black Indy Live, have been unable to find a public database map of previous IMPD DUI checkpoints that would allow for measuring local data. Moreover, because the IMPD does not maintain comprehensive data on the races of people who are stopped and arrested, we do not know the extent of racial profiling in the city other than through anecdotal reports.

Vop Osili, the Democratic president of the City-County Council, intends to do something about this. As reported in the Indy Star, he plans to introduce a proposal requiring the IMPD and other city agencies to “use available tools to assist in the elimination of racial and social disparities.” More specifically, Osili proposes that a team of city officials gather racial data to get a clearer picture of bias in city services and then find to eliminate such biases and promote equity. For the IMPD, the change would mean adding race to the forms that officers use to record stops and arrests.

If you believe that the police have unfairly targeted you because of your race in a DUI stop, please contact the criminal defense lawyers of Razumich & Associates to learn how we can help protect your rights. We are ready to fight for you. Call us today.

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