MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new report released Thursday shows disparities in arrests on Metro Transit between people of color and whites.

The report shows that when police encounter people who are found to be first-time fare evaders, black adults are 26 percent more likely to be cited rather than warned when compared with white adults. Native American adults are estimated to be 152 percent more likely to be cited compared to whites.

The Metro Transit Police Department is taking action to address the disparities highlighted in the new study. The American Civil Liberties Union says complaints from the NAACP and Native American groups sparked the need for a review of the number of arrests on city trains and buses.

“People who have more melanin than me do poorer in their relationship with MTC police,” Chuck Samuelson said.

ACLU Executive director Chuck Samuelson says blacks are six to eight times more likely to be arrested than whites, Native Americans seven to nine times more likely.

“This is a much bigger issue nationwide than it was three years ago,” Samuelson said.

It’s an issue Metro Transit police is dealing with head-on.

“We have to dig into this, we have to look at it seriously, we have to understand what’s going on on our trains, on our buses on our platforms that is causing the disparity,” John Harrington said.

Chief Harrington says he is hiring from the community. He says since his arrival in 2012, the department diversity has gone from five to 35 percent.  Harrington says the Metro Transit Police Department is the most diverse force in the state.

In response to the data, officers are being trained on how to deal with people who may have autism. Some are even learning a second language to interact better with the community.

The Metro Transit Police Department has also asked the Council on Crime and Justice to look at its policies and procedures.

“This study creates a clear and compelling need to investigate the reasons behind these disparities in our policing. These disparities cannot be ignored and we must hold ourselves accountable,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said.

Earlier this month, Chief Harrington directed all officers to issue warnings to all people on their first encounter with fare evasion. Metro Transit police are also inviting the community to be part of the review policy.

Reg Chapman

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