Updated traffic-stop data to NAACP show fewer white motorists

Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan
Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan Bradenton Herald

Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan said updated records about traffic stops have been provided to the Manatee County NAACP after the group’s president complained how the department responded to an open records request for the information.

The only figure in the new report that differs from the previous one is the number of white motorists who were issued traffic citations during the past 10 years.

According to the updated report, the total 10-year citation figure is 56,236, and the breakdown said 34,932 were given to white motorists, 11,832 were black, 9,116 were Hispanic, 46 were Indian, 273 were Asian and 37 were unknown.

The previous report stated that the total 10-year citation figure was 57,103, but the breakdown said 44,061 were white, 11,832 were black, 9,116 were Hispanic, 46 were Indian, 273 were Asian and 37 were unknown, leaving a total of 65,365, more than 8,000 above the cited total figure.

“(NAACP president) Rodney Jones recently requested statistical data of the race, gender, and ethnicity of the driver for each ‘traffic stop’ for the past 10 years by the Bradenton Police Department,” Bevan said in a statement Monday. “Our personnel entered a query into our computerized records system for each combination of gender, race, and ethnicity. These numbers were accurately provided to Mr. Jones.”

As of Monday evening, Jones said he hadn’t had a chance to look at the new figures thoroughly but will be sending them to various impartial parties for analyzing.

“I’m sure they have a plausible explanation for it, but we don’t know what it is. It’s still somewhat suspect to us because that information didn’t get adjusted until we complained about it,” Jones said in reference to the number of whites reflected in the reports. “We still are concerned about their ability to produce accurate information. How many others have gone out that are also inaccurate? We have no way of knowing because I don’t believe they have a validation process in place.”

The police chief also said staff “voluntarily took the extra step to query overall race and gender data for the citations.”

“Our Records Management System has limitations with regards to ethnicity placement in certain queries as it recognizes Hispanic individuals by race, rather than solely by their ethnicity, thereby recording them in both the White and Hispanic Populations,” she added. “This error was not discovered until the initial data had been released. An updated version has since been provided to Mr. Jones.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Wayne Poston, who also is the city’s police commissioner, called the release of the information at a news conference Sunday a political stunt.

On Sunday, Jones stood outside the Bradenton Police Department for a press conference announcing he made public records requests to the Bradenton, Palmetto and Sarasota police departments, as well as the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. He aims to evaluate if there are a disproportionate number of minorities who are stopped.

Jones, who was named the new Manatee NAACP president earlier this year, requested that BPD supply information on every traffic stop for the past 30 years that resulted in a search, citation and arrest and what the suspect’s and officer’s race, age and gender were in each case. He also asked for the same information on every BPD shooting. The department said it could only provide the shootings from 1988 to the present and traffic citations leading to arrests by age, race and gender going back 10 years, but that it didn’t record searches. Jones said it seemed like sloppy record keeping.

Jones said the statistics did not add up, noting how the ethnic breakdowns totaled higher than the overall figure. On Sunday, about a dozen people stood behind the NAACP leader, including Manatee pastors and members of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, Latin Caucus of Manatee County, Black Lives Matter, Manatee Democratic Party and Suncoast Answer.

“You have to include everyone in this community,” said Warren Merriman, who is challenging Poston in this year’s race for mayor and was fired from the BPD after he was charged with theft. “Where’s our police commissioner (Poston)? Our police commissioner has never reached out, as mayor, to the NAACP. I’m a member of the NAACP. I think we should be inclusive of everyone in our city.”

Poston on Monday referred all questions to Chief Bevan, but did say neither he nor Bevan was invited Sunday. He described the situation as a political stunt.

Herald staff writer Richard Dymond contributed to this report.

Amaris Castillo: 941-745-7051, @AmarisCastillo