December 17, 2014

 

In recent months there has been a lot of questions raised, along with some accusations as to the way the Officers of the Hammond Police Department execute their duties in regards to the Federal Seat Belt and Pedestrian (J-Walking) grants. One of the allegations made is that the court fines kids 250.00 for J-walking. 


There is a small but vocal group who have accused my officers of racial profiling and using excessive force against children while writing the tickets associated with the grants.


I would like to respond to these allegations with facts and statistics.


Let’s start with the demographic makeup of the kids attending Hammond public school.  We write tickets at the High School/Middle school level so the statistics are confined to that part of the school population.  


50% Hispanic 34% African American and 16% White


The tickets issued to date as part of the pedestrian grant are 51% African American 21% White and 28 % Hispanic.  The statistics show that both White Students and African American students receive the bulk of the tickets written with the Hispanic students receiving statistically, the fewest tickets.  Both White and African American Students received a higher percentage of tickets than the percentage of enrollment.


Before I state what that tells me, let me go over what we do to educate the students prior to writing a citation.  At our request the School City has sent home notes to parents in an attempt to educate them about the J-walking policy in hopes they will take time to talk with their kids--and help us keep them out of traffic, keeping them safe by crossing the streets in a legal and proper manner. Prior to enforcement, announcements are made on the school intercom system that students are required to cross at crosswalks and police will be writing citations for crossing in an unsafe and illegal manner. Besides placing themselves at risk by crossing the street improperly, students crossing in the middle of busy streets like 169th near Morton and Calumet Ave near Hammond High are slowing or stopping traffic.


I believe the statistics simply show that my officers are writing tickets to students who make a decision to ignore the education and warnings given them prior, and still make a decision to commit an infraction. The majority of students committing the violations are White and African American and the tickets reflect that.  That’s not profiling, just a consequence of poor choice on the part of the student.


As for an allegation of excessive force during the writing of citations, there is only one incident where an officer was forced to make an arrest during the issuing of a Pedestrian Grant citation. There have been questions raised and suggestions that the White officer was profiling minorities during that incident. The involved officer had just started his shift and he had just finished writing two White students citations for J-walking.  He then observed two African American Females J-walk and attempted to write citations.  One of the females chose to refuse to stop as directed and walked away from the officer.  When the officer tried to stop herby getting in front of her, the offender punched the officer in the face so she was arrested.  There are no other complaints filed with the Police Department reference abuse of any type associated with the Pedestrian Grant program.  Adult or Juvenile (17 in this case) if you punch one of my officers in the face after you commit an unlawful act, even a citation, you will be going to jail.  This incident was in no way the result of racial profiling or bias on behalf of the officer.


I also took a look at the statistics for the Seat Belt Grant. 


Most Months run consistent to the last as far as stats.  In the Month of September five minority officers conducted 15 patrols looking for seat belt violations.  Five white officers conducted 14 patrols.  Of these 29 patrols, most done by minority officers, the following statistics were found.  133 African Americans, 97 White 74 Hispanic and 3 Asian offenders were cited. 117 citations written without the optional race code being filled in.  This is now a mandatory box to fill so we can be more statistically accurate.  The make-up of the patrols is racially diverse and there is no statistical evidence that profiling is present.


In closing I would like to state that facts and not assumption show that the Officers of the Hammond Police Department are not involved in racial profiling.  Tickets in general are being written to individual offenders who decide to violate the law.  Hammond is a diverse community, surrounded by diverse communities.  The White population of Hammond is below 50% of the demographic makeup. The Hispanic population is the second largest segment.  In both the above programs African Americans and White offenders receive the majority of the citations while being the lesser demographic.  Again, the individuals who make a decision to violate the law are being cited for their actions, period.


As a whole the Hammond Police Department is a group of ethical and morally correct officers.  They are executing their duties in a professional manner.  They are not engaged in racial profiling and do not enforce the law based on any personal bias. 


If you live in or travel through Hammond and do not wish to get a ticket or go to jail, I would like to offer friendly advice.  Do not commit an infraction or crime here.  My officers are aggressive and proactive. It is our intention that Hammond remain a safe place to live in and visit.  We will not be bullied into not doing the job the Citizens of Hammond pay us to do.

 

Chief John Doughty