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Three-Fourths of Mass. Police Depts. Employ Racial Profiling

By Bill Dedman

The Boston globe -- Three out of four police departments in Massachusetts have engaged in racial profiling against nonwhite drivers, state Public Safety Secretary Edward A. Flynn is expected to announce Tuesday.

To monitor their interactions with citizens, Flynn could require police in as many as 249 departments, including state troopers, to fill out an extra form every time they pull over a motorist, even when they don’t write a ticket or a warning.

Four years after the Legislature ordered a test for racial profiling in Massachusetts, police departments will receive their final grades Tuesday morning. Flynn is scheduled to release the final report of a state-sponsored study of traffic tickets by Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice, and to announce what standard he will set for requiring the additional paperwork. Northeastern posted the report on its Web site Monday night.

The attorney for the state’s police chiefs association predicted that many police officers will respond to Flynn’s ruling by “de-policing,” doing fewer traffic stops lest they give more ammunition to their critics.

“De-policing is a real possibility,” said the attorney, John M. Collins, general counsel for the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. “When somebody is falsely accused, they’re not going to continue to give you the bullets to shoot them with.”

The Northeastern study confirms a Boston Globe study of the same traffic tickets last year: Minorities, especially men, are disproportionately ticketed and searched in most communities in the state. And when police officers decide whether to write a ticket or a warning, women are far more likely to get a break.

In applying the state law, police chiefs expected Flynn to be a tough grader, requiring the additional paperwork from police departments that show a disparity on any one of Northeastern’s four statistical tests: ticketing resident minorities more than whites, compared with their share of the resident population, as judged by the 2000 Census; ticketing all minorities more than whites, compared with their share of the driving population in the community, as estimated by Northeastern; searching minorities more often than whites; and issuing warnings to whites more often than to minorities.

Looking at Northeastern’s final report on 341 communities, 92 communities got a passing grade on all tests. The largest community in the state that got an all-clear was Agawam, a Springfield suburb of 28,000 people.

In the Boston area, the only communities given a clean bill were the northern towns of Boxford, Danvers, Essex, Hamilton, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Middleton and Newbury; the northwest towns of Acton, Burlington, Carlisle, Concord, Groton, Harvard, North Reading, Reading, Westford and Winchester; the south towns of Duxbury, Halifax, Hanover, Marshfield, Norwell, Pembroke, and Plympton; and the west towns of Medfield, Norfolk, and Plainville.