The rate at which minorities are subjected to stops, searches and frisks by police doesn’t appear to be improving in Boston in the year since the department claimed it was narrowing racial disparities in their tactics.
At least 71 percent of all street level, police-civilian encounters from 2015 through early 2016 involved persons of color, while whites comprised about 22 percent, an Associated Press review of the most recently available data shows. That’s only a slight decline from the 73 percent that minorities comprised in such street-level encounters between 2011 and early 2015, according to data the city made available last year. It’s also higher than the roughly 63 percent that blacks comprised between 2007 and 2010, according to a report the department released in 2015. That report didn’t include the tallies for other minority groups. And the gap between minorities and whites in the most recent reporting period is likely higher. Over 7 percent of all police-civilian encounters compiled in the department’s 2015 to 2016 “Field Interrogation, Observation, Frisk and/or Search” reports don’t list the civilian’s race at all.
Civil rights activists have complained for years that blacks, in particular, comprise a majority of these kinds of police interactions in Boston, despite accounting for about 25 percent of the population. The disparity matters because it affects how some residents in largely minority communities perceive police, said Carl Williams, of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which provided the recent police data the AP analyzed.