The Louisville Police Department feels vindicated after an internal investigation cleared a white officer accused of racially profiling an HBCU president last year during a traffic stop. The findings came as a new report showed police were not only continuing to racially profile drivers, they were doing it even more than before.
The two conflicting reports suggest that department officials are really just looking the other way.
The Professional Standards Unit investigation cleared Officer Patrick Norton of engaging in biased law enforcement practices, US News reported on Wednesday. Police Chief Steve Conrad ordered the internal investigation after there was controversy over the treatment of the Rev. Kevin Cosby during the traffic stop.
Norton stopped Cosby, president of Simmons College of Kentucky, and his wife on Sept. 15, 2018. He claimed that it was a legitimate traffic stop, but Cosby disagreed. The officer stopped his car for no apparent reason, questioned the couple, checked the minister’s driver’s license and let them leave without writing a ticket, Cosby said.
Cosby’s daughter, Christine Cosby-Gaither, posted a video of the stop on Facebook. It ignited widespread racial profiling allegations against the officer.
News that Norton was cleared of wrongdoing came as a new report confirmed in a massive study that racial profiling traffic stops are indeed commonplace—even involving police departments like Conrad’s.
Using information obtained through public record requests, the Stanford Open Policing Project examined almost 100 million traffic stops conducted from 2011 to 2017. It involved 21 state patrol and 29 municipal police departments.
“The results show that police stopped and searched black and Latino drivers on the basis of less evidence than used in stopping white drivers, who are searched less often but are more likely to be found with illegal items. The study does not set out to conclude whether officers knowingly engaged in racial discrimination, but uses a more nuanced analysis of traffic stop data to infer that race is a factor when people are pulled over — and that it’s occuring across the country,” NBC News said.
First Division Maj. Eric Johnson of the Louisville Police Department made it clear last year in a sharply worded email to a local lawmaker who alleged racial profiling against the college president that Cosby “isn’t immune from traffic violations,” the Courier Journal reported.
“The stop of Rev. Cosby is an example of the exact action I’ve asked my officers to take in these neighborhoods. …While being stopped by the police may not be a pleasant experience and may cause some people anxiety, it doesn’t mean the police were wrong,” Johnson, who’s white, stated in the email that the newspaper obtained.
With that type of aggressive attitude toward policing Black neighborhoods, it’s hard to believe that all the stops by officers in the department were constitutional.