Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister is responding to a new report released by the Nebraska Crime Commission, which found African American drivers have a higher chance of being pulled over and searched in Lincoln.
According to the 2018 report released Friday, black drivers were pulled over in 11 percent of the 41,000 traffic stops in Lincoln, even though African Americans only account for 4.3 percent of the city’s population.
“I am here to acknowledge that the numbers are disproportional to the population numbers in Lincoln, and this is an important conversation that needs to continue both internally at the Lincoln Police Department and especially, with our community partners,” Bliemeister said Wednesday morning.
The ACLU of Nebraska is now calling for a change in how law enforcement officials are hired and trained throughout the state, following the report.
“This data confirms what Nebraskans of color already know: racial bias persists in traffic stops,” ACLU of Nebraska attorney Rose Godinez said in a statement. “This data confirms there is a clear need to recalibrate. We can’t continue to do the same things in terms of police training and watch the data about racial disparities in policing continue to rise.”
The commission’s statewide report said their report doesn’t have enough information to determine the motive or cause for the disparity. Though, the commission said it reviewed 11 reports from four agencies where an officer was accused of racially profiling someone they stopped. In eight of those cases, the officer involved was exonerated, and in the other three reports didn’t have sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegations.
Bliemeister told KFOR News his department is actively working with cultural centers in the community to recruit officers for the department. “We strive to have a workforce that is reflective of the community we serve. Are we there? We are not. But that is a goal we continually have,” Bliemeister said.
Bliemeister also talked about a concluded study conducted by professors at Doane College on LPD’s recruiting and hiring process. “They’ve identified in our testing and hiring process where candidates may be more likely than not to be disqualified, and we’re looking to determine if there are things we can do within our hiring process, while still complying with the regulations of the state of Nebraska, in order to be a more diverse workforce,” Bliemeister said.
LPD Information Officer Luke Bonkiewicz told KFOR News, their studies show an economic cause for more traffic stops with African Americans – stating they’re more likely to be pulled over for expired registration, while white drivers are more likely to be pulled over from speeding.
You can read the full report by the Nebraska Crime Commission here.