Black motorists are searched three times more than whites in Louisville

The Louisville Courier Journal reported that of 130,999 traffic stops in Louisville from 2016 to 2018 where citations were given, African Americans were disproportionately stopped and three times as likely to be searched as white drivers.


Black motorists in Louisville, Kentucky, are being stopped and searched more frequently than their white counterparts.

About 20 percent of Louisville’s driving age population is Black, but they accounted for 33 percent of the stops and 57 percent of the 8,942 searches done on motorists, the Louisville Courier Journal reports.

The Courier Journal reviewed 130,999 traffic stops in Louisville from 2016 to 2018 where citations were issued. Black drivers were disproportionately stopped and three times as likely to be searched as white drivers.

Black motorists were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, versus 3.9 percent of the time for white drivers.

A victim of this statistic was Jamaj Johnson. The Louisville Metro Police pulled Johnson over for a failure to signal a turn. Johnson and a passenger with a baby were ordered to get out of the car. Johnson was then frisked and handcuffed while his car was searched by a drug-sniffing dog.

“All this for a turn signal?” Johnson asked one of the Ninth Mobile Division detectives who stopped him, according to a police body camera video. “You see a n—– and you automatically treat me like a criminal.”

The police found nothing in his car, and the case was later dismissed.

Similar scenarios continue to occur. The data shows that police found contraband in 72 percent of the searches of whites versus only 41 percent for African Americans.

LMPD spokeswoman Jessie Halladay said the department “does not target individuals based on race.” She said the department found no reason to believe policy was violated in Johnson’s stop in Newburg, a predominately black neighborhood, Courier Journal reported.

“We place emphasis on people committing the most crimes, especially violent crimes,” she said, and “we direct our resources where most crime is committed.”

She also mentioned that in the second division, where 81 percent of the driving-age population is black, a smaller portion, 77 percent, of those stopped were black.

Similar situations have also occurred in other cities due to racial bias according to Charles Epp, a University of Kansas professor and co-author of Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship.

“This sort of pattern indicates that officers are using less careful criteria for selecting black drivers for a search than white drivers for a search,” he said. “The basis for a search of a white motorist is more likely to be objective evidence of a crime; the basis for a search of black drivers is more likely to be the driver’s race.”

Police Chief Steve Conrad spoke before the Metro Council Public Safety Committee on Wednesday and acknowledged that the department has disproportionately stopped Black drivers. He also mentioned that African Americans are disproportionately represented in all aspects of the criminal justice system, including in arrests and incarceration.

He said that the department has focused on six high-crime neighborhoods where predominately “people of color live” and that to make those neighborhoods safer, “people who live there are going to be stopped.”

But Conrad also agrees, the routine traffic stops “is something we should have done differently.”

— Stats from the Courier Journal


Stops in which citations were issued, 2016-18

Total stops: 130,999

Whites: 78,686 (60%)

Blacks: 42,876 (33%)

Others: 9,509 (7%)


Total: 8,942

Whites: 3,480 (39%)

Blacks: 5,150 (58%)

Others: 312 (4%)

Percentage of those stopped who were searched:

Whites: 4%

Blacks: 12%

Others: 3.3%

Positive searches (contraband found)

Whites: 2,507 (72%)

Blacks: 2,107 (41%)

Others: 182 (58%)


From stops in which citations were or weren’t issued, Jan. 1, 2018-April 9, 2019:

Total stops: 79,742

Firearms seized in 720 stops, or 0.9% of stops

Drugs seized in 4,128 stops, or 5.1% of all stops

Note: LMPD says about 7% of all stops result in searches

Source: LMPD data