A coalition of local Hispanic leaders is calling for an independent investigation to determine if racial profiling exists in DuPage County.
The group examined Illinois Department of Transportration statistics on traffic stops, which they say show police in some DuPage towns pulled over a higher percentage of minority motorists in 2009 than reflected in the racial makeup of their communities.
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"What exactly are they looking for?" said Cristóbal Cavazos, a coordinator with Immigrant Solidarity DuPage. "I think us in the Latino community know very well what the police are looking for. They're targeting Latino drivers in this county."
The countywide racial profiling probe was among several requests Cavazos and others made during a Monday news conference outside the DuPage County sheriff's office.
The coalition also wants DuPage law enforcement officials to suspend so-called "consent searches" and require cultural competency training for police officers.
"Poor relations between community members and law enforcement officers leads to feelings of distrust, anger and fear," said Cynthia Brito, a student and community activist who lives in Addison.
Law officials say they agree racial profiling shouldn't be tolerated. But they warn the traffic stop data could be misleading.
For example, the state report indicates 34 percent of the motorists stopped in Villa Park were minorities, higher than the percentage of minorities in the village.
But Villa Park detective Sgt. Dan McCann said that's not surprising when one considers that the town shares a border with Addison, which has a large Hispanic population.
"I think it would be safe to say that at least 34 percent of the drivers on our roads are Hispanic," he said.
Naperville Police Chief David Dial said the minority statistics used by the state were based on 2000 census figures. So an apparent disparity between traffic stops involving minorities and a town's minority population could be wrong.
In the meantime, Naperville is keeping track of what its police officers do during traffic stops. "If I have somebody who is stopping 40 percent minorities, then I've got to ask why," Dial said.
Dial said chiefs throughout the county have adopted policies to fight discrimination.
"We're not going to sit back and tolerate the mistreatment of anybody," he said. "We don't look at the race of a person. We look at the conduct."
The Hispanic group also criticized a federal program that scans local jails for illegal immigrants. Known as Secure Communities, the program is scheduled to be rolled out to all U.S. counties by 2013.
Deacon Guadalupe Villarreal of St. Isidore Catholic Church in Bloomingdale says the program singles out immigrants who don't have a serious criminal record.
"Are we securing ourselves from drug dealers?" Villarreal said. "Or are we securing ourselves from losing jobs that we ourselves do not want, but the immigrant will embrace? Are securing ourselves because of the different color of their skin?"
He called on the sheriff's office, which runs the county jail, to opt out of the program. The group was hoping to meet with Sheriff John Zaruba on Monday, but his spokeswoman said he was out of town.