116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The city is gearing up to spend three years reviewing traffic stop data to help promote equity in policing, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz told the Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday.
An independent party, CR Research Group LC — the same entity that has reviewed traffic stop data in several other Iowa cities — will review unanalyzed city traffic stop data as part of a proposed three-year agreement spanning 2021 through 2023.
The City Council-approved fiscal 2022 budget, effective July 1 through June 30, 2022, provides $30,000 for the analysis.
“The analysis will review various aspects of traffic stops such as disproportionality in tickets, arrests and searches,” Pomeranz said.
This study includes:
- A comparison of police stop percentages to an observational and U.S. census baseline
- An analysis of post-stop outcomes using statistical methods to determine disproportionality in tickets and arrests
- An analysis of individual officers looking at whether there is disproportionality in the traffic stops they make
- A study of individual officers using odds ratios, which measure association between exposure and an outcome
“This is all designed and will be executed to assure that we continue our commitment of fairness in the way we enforce the laws — in this case, the traffic laws of the city of Cedar Rapids,” Pomeranz said.
Pomeranz said this initiative, championed by Police Chief Wayne Jerman in the budget process, is one that he and the police department support.
“I know that we all look forward to reviewing the results as they come in over time,” Pomeranz said.
He told The Gazette that the CR Research Group LC, the group conducting the analysis will be led by Chris Barnum, director of the master's degree program in criminal justice at St. Ambrose University in Davenport and a specialist in racial disparity in police traffic stops.
The Advocates for Social Justice, the local group that pushed last summer after George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police for the City Council to back seven demands for police reform, had called for Cedar Rapids to share such data in its demands.
As part of the creation of a citizens’ police review board charged with oversight of local law enforcement — which the council approved in February — the advocates asked that the panel “receive and review public quarterly reports” given by the police chief “of police stops and arrests with breakdowns of the attending demographic information including stops and arrests by race and ethnicity."
Nationally, research shows that Black drivers are more likely than white drivers to be stopped by police.
Researchers with Stanford University’s Open Policing Project, which reviewed data of nearly 100 million traffic stops across the United States, found that Black drivers were about 20 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers relative to their share of a municipality’s residential population. And once stopped, Black drivers were searched about 1.5 to 2 times as often as white drivers despite being less likely to be carrying drugs, guns or other illegal contraband compared with their white peers.
Council member Dale Todd, the chair of the council’s Public Safety and Youth Services Committee, told The Gazette this is an effort to drill down into the data.
“We’ve heard plenty of anecdotal stories but we wanted to get to the facts,” Todd said. “Is a kid getting arrested for driving around town for smoking a joint or does a kid get arrested with a gun then they find the marijuana on him? Last year we tried to answer the question, but it was apparent that it was very labor-intensive and was going to take a lot of time and work, so this is the best way to do it — to have a third party analyze the data and tell us what they find out.”
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