|As more DWI task forces are created in police forces across the country, it’s expected that the number of DWI charges could increase by as much as 50% over a period of a few years, possibly totaling as many as 7,000 individual charges per year. But are all of these charges fairly handed out, or are certain drivers and certain neighborhoods targeted more often than others?
With so much focus now placed on how police officers interact with minority civilians, it seemed like the perfect time for the Chicago Tribune to release its findings regarding the practices of police forces in Chicago — and, as many readers may have already guessed, those findings aren’t looking too good for the Chicago police.
In many communities, it’s legal for police officers to set up sobriety checkpoints to curb the number of drunk drivers out on the roads. Officers generally have to follow certain guidelines when setting up and operating the checkpoints to ensure that they’re assessing drivers fairly.
For example, there usually needs to be proof that an area has a high number of drunk drivers on the road during a certain time period, and the police force must publish an official notice in advance that gives the details (time, date, location) of a sobriety checkpoint.
But according to the data collected by the Tribune, the Chicago police seem to have found a way of circumventing these rules. About 84% of all sobriety checkpoints in the city are set up in neighborhoods that have high numbers of minority residents, while major roadways and neighborhoods with high rates of DUI-related crashes — populated mostly by wealthy white residents — are left untouched.
Between February 2010 and January 2014, the Chicago police force conducted 152 sobriety checkpoints in the city. The Tribune states that 127 of these checkpoints were located in districts containing a majority Latino or majority black population.
Only six of the 152 checkpoints were set up in districts with majority white populations.
Furthermore, like the majority of sobriety checkpoints, more tickets for minor offenses were handed out than tickets related to DUI or DWI.
The data is making city residents and officials question whether or not the Chicago police department should be allowed to continue setting up sobriety checkpoints. Although police forces do catch drunk drivers, it seems that the checkpoints are more effective in terms of collecting extra revenue from specific groups of people.
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