Carmel police chief refutes claim that CPD targets black drivers, TV station stands by reporting


WISH-TV ran a news story Nov. 18 claiming that the Carmel Police Dept. tickets black drivers at higher rates than others, but on Dec. 3 CPD Chief Jim Barlow issued a statement refuting that claim.

The TV station issued its own response Dec. 4, airing a piece that stated that CPD’s own numbers support the point of the initial story.

“We stand by our investigation and our reporting,” the updated WISH-TV story stated.

The original story, which used analysis of traffic ticket data from the state court system, reported that black residents make up 2.5 percent of Carmel’s population but account for more than 33 percent of traffic tickets. It also states that Carmel’s black population is near 6 percent during the daytime, when employees who work in Carmel but live elsewhere are in town.

CIC COM 0425 Jim Barlow

In the statement, Barlow called the news story “inaccurate, incomplete and frankly unfair.” He stated that the 2018 American Community Survey lists Carmel’s black population at 5.3 percent and that the population jumps to 11.7 percent during daytime work hours.

He stated that the news report didn’t account for non-discretionary offenses, which are severe violations that would be expected to lead to an arrest, such as felonies, misdemeanors and driving while suspended.

“Non-discretionary offenses are not what most people consider a traffic ticket,” Barlow stated.

Officers may choose whether to issue tickets for minor offenses, such as speeding and stop sign violations, Barlow stated. In 2018, 72.5 percent of people receiving discretionary tickets were white, 20.4 percent were black and 7.2 percent were another race.

He stated that the news story only looked at violations of state law and did not include local ordinance violations, which made up more than 15 percent of tickets in 2018.

Barlow stated that the news story didn’t account for multiple violations during a traffic stop but counted each violation as separate people. He also said the report didn’t take into account the tens of thousands of vehicles that daily travel Carmel’s major corridors, such as I-465 and U.S. 31, to visit various destinations in the city.

“To accurately characterize a traveling population a traffic study would be necessary,” Barlow stated.

In the update released Dec. 4, WISH-TV stated that it used the same type of information to compare tickets given in other cities, and that Carmel still stood out.

“Other departments did not have nearly the disparities in numbers based on race,” WISH-TV stated in its story.