Saint Paul Police Department releases traffic stop data

The Saint Paul Police Department today posted 15 years’ worth of traffic stop data online, fulfilling a promise Chief Todd Axtell made to be more transparent—and use data to improve equity, service and safety across the city.

The data, which dates back to 2001, has never before been released by the department. The Saint Paul Police Department cannot guarantee the accuracy of the data. The maps and graphs shared online are the department’s best efforts to show and understand the data that has been collected. During his first week on the job, Axtell committed to releasing the data to the public.

“It’s important that we release these data to the public so that everyone—the department as well as the people we serve—can understand what’s happening in our city,” Axtell said. “We want to be the best police department possible, and this is an important step in the right direction.”

The data include:

  • Number of traffic stops as well as stops broken down by race and gender
  • Number of citations issued as well as citations broken down by race and gender
  • Number of vehicle searches as well as searches broken down by race and gender
  • Number of driver frisks as well as frisks broken down by race and gender
  • Average ages of those stopped
  • Areas of the city where stops occurred.

“This data has been sitting idle for years. It has never been analyzed, so we don’t have all of the answers right now about what it means. But moving forward, we will—because what is monitored is managed.” he said. “We are going to continue collecting data and watch it closely to better understand what’s going on in our community.”

Axtell said the department has already committed to several new initiatives focused on raising awareness among all department staff about implicit bias and ensuring that traffic stop data collected in the future is leveraged to improve service and equity. These initiatives include:

  • Making annual implicit bias training mandatory for all department employees—sworn and civilian—with 2017 training already scheduled,
  • Reviewing traffic stop data—including reasons for stops, locations of stops, race of motorists, and actions taken—with individual officers on an annual basis
  • Investing in a new records management system, which will allow officers to collect better data, including the reason for a stop.
  • Continuing to have open and honest conversations with the community about how to improve the way the department works to keep Saint Paul safe.

While Axtell admits that the data aren’t perfectly clean, he views its release as an opportunity to build on the ongoing conversation about how the entire community can ensure that all people have equal access to justice, education, employment opportunities, housing and all government services.

“Releasing the data is not the end of the discussion for our department,” he said. “We know there are real issues around equity and how it relates to housing, access to medical care, lending practices, employment, education, victimization and, yes, the criminal justice system.

“The police department needs to be part of the discussion and part of the solution.”

The data can be viewed at stpaul.gov.

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