DWI: Driving while Indian in Arizona
By Brenda Norrell
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Department of Public Safety targets people of color, with American Indians stopped more than 3 times more often than whites, according to DPS own statistics.
For Natives who drive in Arizona, or those who ride with them, this will come as no surprise. Like South Dakota, where Indians are also targeted in traffic stops, the term DWI, "Driving While Indian," has long been a reality.
The statistics don't stop there. The traffic stops are not the only place you find Indians targeted. The jails are packed with American Indians and people of color. Military recruiters target American Indians and other people of color, making empty promises, when the reality is the risk of dying in Iraq.
DPS data shows that Arizona police target American Indians.
According to Associated Press, Arizona Department of Public Safety officers are more likely to search minorities than White people, even though on average minorities were less likely to have illegal items, according to a report released Monday.
The report is dubbed Driving While Black or Brown. It was produced for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona by Fred Solop, director of the Social Research Laboratory at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Using DPS data, Solop looked at 200,000 traffic stops on Arizona highways between July 2006 and June 2007. Of those, 13,271 resulted in searches.
The report concludes that Blacks and Hispanics were each 2½ times more likely than Whites to be searched by DPS. American Indians were about 3¼ times more likely to be searched.
The minorities were more likely to be searched although Whites were more likely to have illegal items than any other minority except for Blacks. Whites were 34 percent likely to have such items and Blacks were 38 percent likely to have them.
In comparison, Hispanics were 22 percent likely to have illegal items and America Indians were 24 percent likely to have them. Asians and Middle Easterners had comparable results.
"The true test of democracy is how we treat people who are outsiders," ACLU attorney Dan Pochoda said. "We have seen a trampling of the rights of those persons in Maricopa County and throughout the state."
A DPS spokesman wasn't immediately available to comment on the report.
DPS collected data for the report under the terms of a settlement of a 2001 class-action lawsuit.