Police in Illinois will permanently have to record race, other traffic stop data in new bill

The Illinois Traffic Stop Study — launched 15 years ago under legislation sponsored by then-State Sen. Barack Obama — would have ended on June 30.

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Illinois is poised to permanently require police officers to record the race of drivers during traffic stops and other data intended to identify signs of racial profiling.

The Illinois Traffic Stop Study —  launched 15 years ago under legislation sponsored by then-State Sen. Barack Obama — requires police officers to record key data points during every traffic stop, including the reason for the stop, the race of the driver and outcomes that may include warnings, tickets and searches.

The original legislation included a sunset clause that would have effectively ended data collection on June 30. House Bill 1613 removes that expiration date, making the program permanent and adding a few minor tweaks to the program. It passed the Illinois House by a vote of 75-35 in April and the Senate 32-18 on May 21. It now awaits approval from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is expected to sign it into law.

Illinois has some of the most rigorous data collection requirements around traffic stops in the nation. Connecticut and North Carolina have similar laws, but many states don’t keep as robust data or record the race of drivers at all.

A study by the Stanford Open Policing Project of nearly 100 million traffic stops across the United States revealed discrimination in stops nationwide. “Collecting, releasing, and analyzing police data are essential steps for increasing the effectiveness and equity of law enforcement practices, and for improving relations with the public through transparency,” the report stated.

Chicago police tripled the number of traffic stops conducted from 2015 to 2017, according to another study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Racism in the Rearview Mirror. Of the approximately 285,000 motorists Chicago police stopped in 2017, 60% were black —  double the rate of the city’s African American population.

The ACLU study shows rates at which local police departments stop drivers by race, compared with the estimated driving population. Traffic stop records also include outcomes, including whether a driver consented to a search without probable cause, or if police called for a drug-sniffing dog, and the “hit rate” for searches, for instance.

“We just think that it’s such a great tool that they can use to understand the effectiveness of their policies and practices,” Rachel Murphy, a staff attorney with the ACLU, said. “And we just encourage all agencies to take advantage of it.”

There are no incentives, penalties or training programs required as part of the traffic stop study. It’s just data collection.

HB 1613 also convenes a task force to review how data is collected and analyzed. An amendment to the bill moves data collection responsibilities from the Illinois Dept. of Transportation to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.