Report hints at ‘biking while black’ behind Mpls cyclist stops

A report from the Minneapolis Bike Coalition says black bicyclists are stopped by police more often than their white counterparts.

The report — available here — looked at bicycle-related citations issued between 2009 and 2015.

For simple citations, the report, which acknowledges limited data, says it’s impossible to tell if race and ethnicity played a factor because the Fourth District Court kept only gender information and because the Minneapolis Police Department was not recording race or ethnicity data on their citations.

The top locations for bicycle citations were Nicollet Mall, Hennepin Avenue, and the University of Minnesota.

The group also looked at arrests made as a result of a stop for a bicycle citation and found black riders were more likely to be arrested.

“Both the number of youth involved in CAPRS reports, and the high number of Black juveniles stopped is notable. This data is in line with the ACLU report on low-level offenses and race in which the ACLU found that Black youth in Minneapolis were 5.8 times more likely to be arrested for a low-level offense than white youth,” the report said.

In the police narratives found in the CAPRS reports, negative perceptions were more likely assigned to people of color. For example, of the 33 reports coded with the police perceiving the arrestee as “confrontational,” 22 were Black, eight white, one other/mixed, and two unknown.

Descriptives given in reports with Black arrestees included: uncooperative, unruly, intent to commit crime, area as crime-filled, and smelled like weed. These descriptions, written by the police themselves, highlight the racist judgments made about Black people, especially young Black men, and the intent of their actions when they are in public spaces.

For example, descriptions like “confrontational” can be used as excuses to escalate situations and respond in harsher ways towards Black people. The racial undertones of smelling like weed are highlighted by the overrepresentation of people of color being cited and jailed for marijuana offenses despite similar usage rates among white people (ACLU, 2013).

A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department tells the Star Tribune the department has not had a chance to review the report.