OSHP uses drug dogs more often with black drivers

COLUMBUS (AP) — The Ohio State Highway Patrol uses drug-sniffing dogs on Ohio stops involving black drivers at a disproportionately higher rate than stops involving whites, accounting for 28 percent of the nearly 17,000 stops where dogs were used from 2013 to 2017, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press.

This disparity is the case even though blacks make up about 13 percent of the population both nationally and in Ohio, and about 14 percent of drivers stopped by the patrol overall in Ohio are black. The patrol made about 5 million total stops during the time period.

While whites represent about 80 percent of Ohioans, about 60 percent of stops where dogs were used involved whites, the patrol data showed.

The patrol produced the data at the request of the AP after a federal appeals court last month criticized the patrol’s arrest of a black driver on the Ohio Turnpike in 2014 and tossed evidence used to pull over the driver.

The case is expected to return to a federal judge where the man’s conviction is likely to be overturned.

The Ohio data is consistent with numerous studies that show blacks are disproportionately punished at every step in cases involving minor drug crimes, said Jolene Forman, a staff attorney for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance.

“Black people are not only more likely to be stopped, they’re more likely to be searched, arrested, convicted, and sentenced, and when they are sentenced they’re likely to be sentenced to harsher terms,” said Forman.

Last year, University of North Carolina researchers studied traffic stop data in 16 states – including Ohio – and found that with few exceptions law enforcement agencies searched black drivers at higher rates than white.

In Ohio, blacks in most counties are stopped more often than whites, and are more likely to be searched and arrested, according to data on nearly 6.2 million police stops in Ohio from 2010 to 2015 analyzed by the Stanford Open Policing Project. The studies did not specifically study drug dog usage.

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