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Articles by Richard Webster

“If Everybody’s White, There Can’t Be Any Racial Bias”: The Disappearance of Hispanic Drivers From Traffic Records

In Louisiana, law enforcement agencies have been accused of targeting Hispanic drivers in traffic stops and identifying them as white on tickets. Misidentification makes it impossible to track racial bias, experts say.

by Richard A. Webster, ProPublica

When sheriff’s deputies in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, pulled over Octavio Lopez for an expired inspection tag in 2018, they wrote on his traffic ticket that he is white. Lopez, who is from Nicaragua, is Hispanic and speaks only Spanish, said his wife.

In fact, of the 167 tickets issued by deputies to drivers with the last name Lopez over a nearly six-year span, not one of the motorists was labeled as Hispanic, according to records provided by the Jefferson Parish clerk of court. The same was true of the 252 tickets issued to people with the last name of Rodriguez, 234 named Martinez, 223 with the last name Hernandez and 189 with the surname Garcia.

This kind of misidentification is widespread—and not without harm. Across America, law enforcement agencies have been accused of targeting Hispanic drivers, failing to collect data on those traffic stops, and covering up potential officer misconduct and aggressive immigration enforcement by identifying people as white on tickets.

“If everybody’s white, ...

 

 

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