FOIA Request by OTG & ACLU Uncovers Significant Racial Disparities in DC’s Police Arrests

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Open The Government and ACLU-DC, the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) recently provided extensive arrest data for the years 2013 to 2017. An examination of that data by the ACLU Analytics Team revealed a pattern of disproportionate arrests of Black people that persists across geographic areas and offense types. It also showed that MPD arrests thousands of people every year for relatively minor offenses. This report analyzes these trends and proposes steps for addressing them.

Clear Disparities — No Matter How You Cut the Data

From 2013 to 2017, Black individuals composed 47% of D.C.’s population but 86% of its arrestees. During this time, Black people were arrested at 10 times the rate of white people.

This disparity cannot be explained merely by a large concentration of MPD officers in predominantly Black neighborhoods. Rather, as the graph below shows, Black people are disproportionately arrested in over 90% of the District’s census tracts, including the whitest parts of the city. More.