The Grayson County Sheriff’s Office recently released its annual report on internal racial profiling statistics for 2017 and an agency representative said it reflects the deputies’ efforts to do their jobs without a bias.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re taking care of things on our end because bias-based profiling is illegal,” Lt. Martin Hall said. “As a law enforcement agency, the last thing we want to be doing is violating the law.”
The report contains demographic data related to GCSO-initiated traffic and pedestrian stops conducted between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, and compares that data to the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimated population for Grayson County in 2016 — the most recent year for which such an estimate is available. The report also includes a list of agency personnel involved in compiling the data, department policies regarding racial profiling and procedural lists detailing both how members of the public may file a profiling complaint and how the department investigates such complaints.
In its report, the department defined biased-based profiling as the initiation of law enforcement action — a traffic stop, a detention, a search, issuance of a citation or an arrest — “based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, or national origin or on the basis of racial stereotypes,” rather than on the individual’s behavior, information possibly linking him or her to a crime, or other lawful reasons for the action.
According to the Census Bureau, Grayson County boasted a population of 128,235 residents in 2016. Of that total figure, 76.2 percent were identified as Caucasian, 13 percent as Hispanic, 6.1 percent as African American, 1.8 percent as Native American, 1.5 percent as Asian and 1.4 percent as a race not tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The population data was then compared to the races of those contacted during the department’s 127 traffic and pedestrian stops of 2017. Of those stopped, 72.44 percent were Caucasian, 15.75 percent were Hispanic, 10.24 percent were African American, 1.57 percent were Asian and no Native Americans or non-tracked groups were recorded.
Hall said, to his knowledge, the department received no formal public complaints of racial profiling in 2017. The lieutenant said while African American and Hispanic subjects were stopped in Grayson County at rates which were higher than their shares of the county population, the relatively low number of applicable contacts on which the report was based led to larger percentage differences in the data. Of the agency’s 127 stops last year, 33 involved African American or Hispanic citizens. Hall also said that where the contacts were initiated may have influenced the percentages.
“It might depend on whether these stops were made in Sherman or Denison, where there’s a larger Hispanic population,” Hall said, adding that he did not have immediate access to information regarding the exact locations of each stop listed in the report.
Overall, Hall said he felt the report accurately reflected department’s efforts to police without bias.
“As far as I’m concerned, so long as we keep doing business the way we’re doing it and make sure that we’re following the laws that are set forth by the state, I think we’re on the right track,” Hall said.
In accordance with the Texas Racial Profiling Law, the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office has collected and reported race-related data since 2002. The information is compiled by the GCSO Enforcement Bureau, which is comprised of 35 deputies in the patrol, narcotics and criminal investigation divisions, as well as two floating reserve deputies.
Each deputy employed by the sheriff’s office is required to complete an education and training program on biased-based profiling. The program curriculum is established by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and deputies must complete the program within two years of the date on which they became licensed or the date the deputy applied for an intermediate proficiency certificate.
Hall said he could not name any specific area of improvement he felt the department needed to make in combating bias-based profiling, but said the sheriff’s office was actively taking steps to collect and report more related and detailed data.
“I know that we’re trying to request for a ticket-writing program that has a software which actually assists us even further in tracking our racial profiling,” Hall said. “So we’re actually making an improvement in that area to make the statistics even more well-defined.”
Members of the public are free to submit complaints of racial profiling to the agency. According to the report, if a complaint is lodged, the GCSO division commander forwards recommendations to the chief deputy on the appropriate division to handle the investigation. Those overseeing the investigation are required to collect information, such as audio, video and written records pertaining to the alleged profiling incident. Investigators are also required to determine whether the deputy named in the complaint exhibits a pattern of biased-based profiling.
Upon receiving the results of the investigation, the chief deputy will determine whether to take any disciplinary action. Based on the report, any deputy found to have engaged in biased-based profiling will be subjected to corrective action, including “reprimand; diversity, sensitivity or other appropriate training or counseling; paid or unpaid suspension; termination of employment, or other appropriate action determined by the sheriff.”
Hall said biases undermine the mission of law enforcement agencies everywhere, which should strive to create trust with the public and use that relationship to communicate with citizens, keep them safe and reduce crime.
“We try to teach and expect our people to treat other people like they would their own parents, or brother or sister,” Hall said.