After misidentifying minorities, Texas state troopers to ask drivers about race
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw told the state House Committee on County Affairs that state troopers must follow a new protocol for recording race during traffic stops, according to KXAN.
“What we can do better, and we should have been doing better, is collect the data accurately, as it relates to Hispanics. Plain and simple, [we’re] guilty,” McCraw said during the hearing. “That should have been done better and we've got an obligation to fix that."
A previous investigation by KXAN in Austin revealed that the Texas DPS was counting drivers who were black, Asian and, most often, Hispanic as white. Occasional accidents aside, the "sheer number of the reports that you found, where it looks like the people who are not white are being classified as white, means that there is something else going on here," Professor Ranjana Natarajan, director of the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, told KXAN earlier this month.
”The number of the people who are stopped that are coded incorrectly, that means we're understating the percentage because they're not in the equation,” Committee Chairman Rep. Garnet Coleman said to McCraw on Wednesday.
Crazy, but I am not shocked. It's probably because the officers don't see race/ethnicity https://t.co/dIHsAinRWl— Kevin Stainback (@Kevin_Stainback) November 19, 2015
McCraw's testimony was the first instance in which he admitted fault after KXAN's Brian Collister confronted the agency.
"You were right and we were wrong,” McCraw told Collister after the hearing.
McCraw previously blamed DPS in-car computer systems used by troopers for the discrepancies. He said the sources that troopers base their reporting on, such as driver's licenses and national databases, frequently misidentify minorities, calling license data "problematic." In the meantime, troopers will now ask drivers their race and ethnicity, he told legislators.
“The change takes place effective today,” McCraw said. “We'll change our tactics statewide in terms of how we engage violators on the side of the road."
McCraw also admitted that DPS had known about the problem for years, but did nothing about to correct it.
“I can assure you this is a leadership issue, not a trooper issue,”McCraw said.
Despite the errors regarding racial profiling data, McCraw maintained that DPS traffic-stop statistics show troopers do not racially profile drivers. This insistence is not believable, said Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., the only Hispanic lawmaker on the panel.
“He couldn't simply state, ‘You're right. I cannot use this information to defend myself anymore,'” Romero said after the hearing. “The math doesn't lie. Two and two is always four, and right now two and two is an unknown based on the information we got today."
Romero said he will request DPS to hire an independent auditor to sift through the department's racial profiling data.