See more of the story

The number of traffic stops made last year by Roseville police dropped by more than 20%, and most motorists drove away with just a warning.

However, people of color were the subject of nearly 40% of those stops, according to some of the findings of the department's annual traffic enforcement report. That percentage is twice that of the number of people of color who live in Roseville.

Police leaders said that while it was too early to draw major conclusions from the data, the report released this week was evidence of the department's commitment to transparency.

Though the state doesn't require cities to collect such data, Roseville and several other Ramsey County cities decided to gather detailed information on traffic stops after the 2016 fatal police shooting of Philando Castile.

The 32-year-old black man was shot and killed by an officer in Falcon Heights during what began as a routine traffic stop.

Roseville Deputy Chief Erika Scheider said that the department's chief, Rick Mathwig, "has pushed these initiatives to build a culture of transparency and accountability and build the public trust."

Mayor Dan Roe said Roseville officials have discussed race and policing with residents, and that one of the messages received "was to have a better understanding of the data around policing. ... We are providing information about what we do and not trying to spin the information one way or the other. We put it out there in its raw form."

Roseville police also issued their first use-of-force report in 2019 and will continue to do so annually, officials said.

City leaders have said the demographics of drivers in the city can differ significantly from those who live there, because the inner-ring suburb is a shopping, entertainment and industry hub that doubles in size during peak hours.

A push to build community relationships, Scheider said, could also mean less time pulling over drivers.

"One of our top priorities that comes even before traffic enforcement is community outreach," she said.

The Roseville report takes a deep dive into traffic stops, examining the race and gender of drivers; why and where they were stopped; the outcome of the stop; and the point at which officers decided to search the vehicle or use force. The data show that about 4% of traffic stops resulted in a search of either the vehicle, the driver or both.

In 2019, Roseville officers made 4,123 traffic stops, compared with 5,373 in 2018 and 2,459 in 2017. Last year's decline in traffic stops could be due, in part, to staffing changes, Scheider said.

"We had a number of new hires in 2019 and they were going through training," she said. "During training they are probably doing limited traffic stops."

Last year about 60% of the drivers stopped in Roseville were white, while 24% were black, 7% Asian and 6% Hispanic. Officers record the perceived race of the driver. Scheider said the department wants to further analyze the data around race before commenting on it.

About 76% of Roseville's 36,400 residents are white; 8% are Asian, 7% black and 4% Hispanic.

Officers no longer routinely issue fix-it tickets for burnt-out headlights and other equipment defects.

Instead, they provide drivers with vouchers to fix those problems under what is called the "Lights On" program.

"And 83% of our traffic stops resulted in a warning," Scheider said. "Our officers are focused on changing behaviors. That warning can be just as effective as a ticket."

Maplewood police have seen an increase in traffic stops, fueled largely by younger officers working special federally funded traffic details that focus on drunken driving, distracted driving and seat-belt use, said Maplewood Police Chief Scott Nadeau.

Maplewood police will release their report next week.

"It's important we communicate to the public what enforcement actions we are taking," Nadeau said.

Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037