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MCSO ‘encouraged’ despite report showing racial bias continues

(Twitter Photo/@mcsoaz)

PHOENIX – A recent report found that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office continues to show racial bias in traffic stops, although the agency said it was “encouraged” by the results.

The 112-page report is part of the agency’s court-ordered supervision following racial profiling that occurred under former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Completed last month by CNA, a Virginia-based not-for-profit research organization, the report analyzes data on the 24,999 traffic stops made by MCSO deputies from July 2017 to December 2018.

Sgt. Calbert Gillett told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an email Monday that Sheriff Paul Penzone was out of town and unavailable for an interview about the findings. Instead, Gillett issued the following statement from Penzone:

This quarterly report is the first deliverable from our new vendors, considered best in their field at evaluating law-enforcement statistics and practices. Although we continue to see disparate outcomes in some of our traffic stops, we are encouraged by what we believe are improvements in areas of concern, including the finding of no disparate outcomes in stops involving seizures. We believe this report will provide a roadmap for next steps to enhance training and accountability for all of our traffic engagements and that we will continue to see improvement as we go forward.

The report includes detailed statistical analysis about how stop times, citations, searches, arrests and seizures differed for drivers of different races.

The findings showed that stops involving drivers perceived to be Hispanic or black were more likely to take longer, involve a search and result in an arrest than stops involving white drivers.

However, factors such as language barriers, technical issues, the need to tow vehicles and dealing with DUIs “may explain the differences in stop lengths better than the perceived race of the driver,” according to the report.

The report also found that Hispanic drivers were more likely to receive citations than other drivers, but black drivers weren’t. And race wasn’t a factor in whether searches led to seizures.

MCSO has been under court oversight since a federal judge ruled in 2013 that the agency racially profiled Latinos under then-Sheriff Arpaio.

Penzone has previously said that MCSO has been taking steps to comply with the court demands since he took office in 2017.

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