YAKIMA — The state of Washington has allotted $50,000 to study possible biases in the Washington State Patrol after an investigation found troopers search people of color at a higher rate than white drivers.
The Seattle news organization InvestigateWest found troopers were more likely to find drugs or weapons in the possession of white drivers even though American Indian, Pacific Islander, Latino and black drivers were searched more frequently, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.
InvestigateWest analyzed data from 2009 to 2015 for the report, which found most searches occurred near the Colville and Yakama reservations.
There have been times State Patrol troopers or other officers have sat at reservation borders and it is not clear if they are there for security reasons or not, Spokane Tribal Council chairwoman Carol Evans said.
“People should be treated with respect and should not be treated differently based on the color of their skin,” Evans said. “They’re there to protect all of us.”
The State Patrol and researchers from Washington State University will work together to analyze agency data for any evidence of implicit bias in traffic stops and searches and tribal member perception of the patrol.
“We’re not condoning any sort of bias out there, we’re actively working to wring that out of our system anywhere we can,” said Chris Loftis, patrol director of communications.
The report to the Legislature is due Dec. 31.
The Legislature also approved $150,000 to help the State Patrol have a more diverse workforce and help address the shortage of troopers, Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs said.
The patrol must submit a diverse workforce action plan to the Legislature by Jan. 1.