Black residents nearly five times as likely to be arrested by WSU PD

More black residents arrested for traffic, drug-related offenses



Although 2.7% of Pullman’s population is black, the group makes up 12.5% of all arrests. White residents made up 76.8% of the population but accounted for 69.5% of arrests.

MAGGIE QUINLAN, Evergreen reporter

In the last year, 12.5 percent of people the WSU Police Department arrested were black, while 2.7 percent of Pullman’s population is black.

These calculations were based on arrest records from May 2018 to May 2019 and U.S. Census Bureau population estimates from July 2018.

Roughly 2.5 percent of black residents were arrested by WSU PD, while 0.6 percent of white residents were arrested.

In Pullman, black people were 4.7 times as likely to be arrested as white people in the recorded year. Nationally, black people aged 24-34 are 1.5 times as likely as white people to be arrested, according to data from a 2009 Adolescent Health Survey.

Black people accounted for 22 percent of traffic offenses and 30 percent of drug arrests by the WSU PD.

In other words, five out of about 945 black Pullman residents were arrested for a traffic offense, while 15 out of about 24,500 white residents were arrested for the same thing.

From those same numbers, six of those 945 black residents were arrested for a drug offense during the recorded year, while 11 of 24,500 white residents were arrested for drugs.

“The challenge is, these are not inputs that the police department controls,” said Phil Weiler, vice president of university marketing and communications.

Weiler also said police departments across the country are dealing with arrests disproportionate to the population.

Black and white Americans use and sell drugs at similar rates, but black Americans are 2.7 times as likely to be arrested for a drug offense nationwide, according to a report from the Hamilton Project.

Based on WSU PD arrest records, black people in Pullman were 14.2 times as likely to be arrested for a drug offense as white people and 8.7 times as likely to be arrested for a traffic offense.

The arrest rates reminded Weiler of increased reports of sexual assault, he said.

“Is that bad news or good news?” he said. “In many ways, it’s good news because we know crimes of sexual assault are underreported.”

There were 194 arrests from May 2018 to May 2019 overall, 24 of whom were black people. Weiler said arrest numbers this small might not mean much.

The WSU PD website includes photos of administration, sergeants, corporals and officers on its contact page. Of those listed, none are black.

“Across the institution, we want to make sure we have faculty and staff that represent our student body,” he said. “And clearly we have a long way to go.”

Of the people arrested, at least one black person and at least one white person were arrested twice.

The Daily Evergreen calculated arrest rates based on the number of arrests rather than the number of people arrested.

The number of white people arrested could be fewer than listed, as the records labeled several people “white” who had both first and last names of Indian origin, Saudi Arabian origin and Native American origin.

The Evergreen did not remove these people from the number of white arrests in the probability calculations.

The records listed five racial categories: black, white, pacific islander, latino, and “U” which included people with Arabic names.

WSU Police Chief Bill Gardner and Captain Mike Larsen did not reply to requests for interviews.

Assistant Chief Steve Hansen said he was not available for an interview and directed the Evergreen to Weiler.

The Evergreen also reached out to the WSU Black Student Union for comment.

“Black Student Union sees and recognizes the disparities within the populations being arrested here at Washington State University,” the Black Student Union wrote in a statement to the Evergreen.

Makayia Thompson, president of the BSU, declined an interview.

“Us talking about how terrible the system is won’t make them acknowledge it,” Thompson wrote.