Actor and director LeVar Burton told CNN in a televised interview that he has a routine he follows if he is stopped by a police officer. He takes off his hat and sunglasses and puts them aside, then rolls down his window and sticks his hands out along the side of the car.
“I want that officer to be as relaxed as he can be when he approaches my vehicle. I do that because I live in America,” said the actor, who is black.
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Burton said he taught his now-33-year-old son to follow the procedure too, “as part of my duty as a father to ensure that he knows the kind of world in which he’s growing up.”
Police in some cities have been shown to stop blacks more frequently than whites. A Houston Police Department study in 2011 found that 33 percent of people stopped on the road were black, though blacks make up just 23 percent of the population there, The Houston Chronicle reported
. Hispanics, who make up 44 percent of the city’s population, were stopped in 32 percent of the cases. The study is part of a long term trend of blacks being stopped more than other ethnicities in Houston, the Chronicle said.
New York City has a controversial “stop and frisk” policy in which officers can detain and search anyone who seems suspicious. The program has briefly detained more than 1.2 million people in the past two years, ABC News reported
. Statistics from the Center for Constitutional Rights show that 84 percent of the stops made are young men of color, ABC reported. Blacks make up 23 percent of the city’s population and Hispanics 29 percent. Only 6 percent of the stops have led to an arrest, according to the statistics.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defended the program to ABC’s Nightline last month.
"About 70 percent to 75 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes — assault, robbery, shootings, grand larceny — are described as being African-American,” Kelly told Nightline.
“The percentage of people who are stopped is 53 percent African-American," he continued. "So really, African-Americans are being under stopped in relation to the percentage of people being described as being the perpetrators of violent crime. The stark reality is that crime happens in communities of color."
Kelly’s remarks stirred debate on Twitter.
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