Asked about racial disparities in police use of force, President Barack Obama said in a YouTube interview on Thursday that an anti-profiling law he helped pass in Illinois led to better policing. But the actual data shows there are still big racial disparities in the state's largest city.
The Illinois law required police departments to begin collecting data on the race of the people they pull over.
"Suddenly each cop when they were about to make a traffic stop, they had to think, 'Okay, am I stopping this person because I should be stopping them, or is some bias at work?'" Obama said. "Just that kind of mindfulness about it ended up resulting in better data, better policing, more trust by the communities that are affected."
But some of the latest data from Chicago indicates police are still very racially biased.
The Chicago Tribune, reporting an analysis from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, explained:
The [Chicago] department also said it prohibits racial profiling and other "bias-based policing," but its own records suggest the problem — often derisively referred to as "driving while black" by African-Americans — remains persistent, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
Of the more than 100,000 traffic stops made by Chicago police last year, nearly half were of black motorists, far more than their percentage of the population per 2010 Census figures, according to the ACLU analysis of the data. The numbers were even more lopsided for traffic stops of blacks in predominantly white neighborhoods, the ACLU found.
Obama acknowledged that studies show cops — and the general public — see black Americans as more threatening and older than they really are, potentially increasing the chances of use of force.
But there's a lot of debate about whether more data collection or even police-worn body cameras, which Obama mentioned, could fix these issues. Many advocates want broader changes, such as stricter laws regarding police use of force and independent prosecutors or civilian review boards to more strictly oversee police.