Sparks fly during Capitol hearing on racial disparity in DPS traffic stops

Fireworks at the State Capitol between State Rep Garnet Coleman and the head of the Department of Public Safety.

Before the "County Affairs Committee" hearing at the Capitol Tuesday, Coleman told Fox 7 the goal was to discuss racial disparities during DPS traffic stops to help put together a "Sandra Bland Act" to be introduced next session.

The committee first heard Skype testimony from a professor, Dr. Frank Baumgartner, who analyzed data from state agencies all over the country.

According to the research, out of 6 million observations from Texas male drivers, a black male driver is 59% more likely to be searched compared to a white male driver in a similar situation. The committee made sure to point out the data doesn't necessarily show "racial profiling" -- just the disparities.

"I'm just telling you what the facts show and I never made an accusation that they were profiling.  I'm talking about the disparity in the treatment of African Americans based on what happens after they're stopped.  You cannot say I said they were profiling," Coleman told McCraw after the DPS director accused him of saying Troopers are racially profiling drivers.

"We focus on, not on racial profiling, we profile based on behavior because there's great value in doing that.  But if there's some disparities...we're going to follow up on it," McCraw said.

Dr. Baumgartner also pointed out it's really a national problem that's not specific to Texas DPS. He said more information is needed to actually be able to determine the reason for the disparities.

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