A new report published by the Associated Press, the State Highway Patrol in Ohio is far more likely to use drug-sniffing dogs during stops involving black drivers than in stops involving white drivers. The report is based on a review of records the AP requested after the arrest of a black driver on the Ohio Turnpike in 2014 in which the Ohio State Highway Patrol was found to have destroyed evidence used to pull over the driver. That case is currently facing appeal, and it’s expected a federal judge will turn over the man’s conviction.
After reviewing these records, the AP reports that the Ohio data show black drivers account for 28% of the nearly 17,000 stops involving the use of drug dogs between 2013 and 2017, while making up only around 13% of the population nationwide and in Ohio. In the nearly 5 million total stops made by the Ohio State Patrol during this period, only 14% of the drivers stopped were black. White drivers make up around 80% of all Ohio drivers, and represent around 60% of all stops involving drug dogs.
The AP contacted Jolene Forman, a staff attorney for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, to get some broaders context on this data. According to Forman, the disproportionate Ohio drug dog data are consistent with national data which indicate black drivers are disproportionately suspected, arrested, punished in cases involving minor drug crimes. “Black people are not only more likely to be stopped, they’re more likely to be searched, arrested, convicted, and sentenced,” Forman says, “and when they are sentenced they’re likely to be sentenced to harsher terms.”
Meanwhile, Ohio State Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Robert Sellers maintains that “drug sniffing canines are deployed based upon the presence of criminal indicators, not race.” The Ohio highway patrol analyzes its own traffic stop data and trooper actions monthly, quarterly, annually, and every two years in an effort to avoid any biases. What effect, if any, this AP report might have on highway patrol policy is yet to be known.