MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Morgantown Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board plans to begin a data analysis of arrests and traffic stops conducted by the police department.

Board Chair Rich Burks said the disproportionate number of African-American arrests over the years has been blamed on drug dealers that don’t reside here, and this is an opportunity to test that.

“The narrative is that you have these out-of-town drug dealers who are predominantly African-American that are causing these numbers to go up,” Burks said. “Is that true, or is that not true? Because we heard that for many years.”

Secretary Bob Cohen said the report from the department said that in 2018, a total of 1,158 arrests were made by the Morgantown Police Department. A report from the U.S. Census from July 2022 said the Morgantown population is 4.2 percent African-American.

“From January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018, African Americans represented 19.60 percent of arrests,” Cohen said. “That’s a staggering number compared to the population.”

Burks said police have agreed to supply the information requested, and they are working to determine the best way to organize the data for analysis. For the arrest reports involving African- Americans, Cohen offered to go through the reports by hand.

“In these numbers, there were 227 African-Americans; we can look at the 227 actual reports and see who they were,” Cohen said.

About a decade ago, the federal government no longer required the race of the person stopped to be reported by departments. When that happened, the local department stopped providing or tracking the information. Board members appear to be on track to request the raw data from a random sampling of traffic stops to determine what information is collected.

“How many stops do they have that do not generate a citation?” Burks said. “There are fishing expeditions that go on with them issuing you anything, so how do you figure this stuff out?”