Police Are Not Going to Build Trust Until They Deal With This!

100 Million Police Stops: New Evidence of Racial Bias

“Fix this, or forget about being trusted by a significant number of your citizens.”

Stanford researchers found that black and Latino drivers were stopped more often than white drivers, based on less evidence of wrongdoing.

NBC News reporter Erik Ortiz posted an article yesterday (March 13, 2019) about this report and our continuing controversy over racially-biased traffic stops by police. It is a continuing argument that can be summed up by police denying and most people of color affirming that this certainly fits into their experience with police.

But let me say this: If police are going to rebuild/build trust with their communities of color (which in many cities is about 40% or more of their “business”) they need to address this issue straight on. Police in a given community must be able to show that they are not acting in a biased manner. Simply said, fix this, or forget about being trusted by a significant number of your citizens.

Here’s an excerpt from the NBC news report:

“Now researchers have compiled the most comprehensive evidence to date suggesting there is a pattern of racial disparities in traffic stops. The researchers provided NBC News with the traffic-stop data — the largest such dataset ever collected — which points to pervasive inequality in how police decide to stop and search white and minority drivers.

“Using information obtained through public record requests, the Stanford Open Policing Project examined almost 100 million traffic stops conducted from 2011 to 2017 across 21 state patrol agencies, including California, Illinois, New York and Texas, and 29 municipal police departments, including New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Paul, Minnesota.

The results show that police stopped and searched black and Latino drivers on the basis of less evidence than used in stopping white drivers, who are searched less often but are more likely to be found with illegal items.

“The study does not set out to conclude whether officers knowingly engaged in racial discrimination, but uses a more nuanced analysis of traffic stop data to infer that race is a factor when people are pulled over — and that it’s occurring across the country…

“The Stanford study sliced the data in three distinct ways to search for evidence of racial bias:

  • Police stops: A ‘veil of darkness’ test was done to analyze whether black drivers are being pulled over at a higher rate during the day than at night, when officers would have a harder time distinguishing race from a distance. After adjusting for the variation in sunset times across the year, researchers found a 5 to 10 percent drop in the share of stopped drivers after sunset who are black, suggesting black drivers are being racially profiled during the day.
  • Police searches: Researchers reviewed the rate at which drivers were searched and the likelihood that those searches turned up illegal drugs and guns. There was evidence that the bar for searching black and Latino drivers is lower than that for white drivers, even though white drivers were more likely to have contraband. Across states, contraband was found in 36 percent of searches of white drivers, compared to 32 percent for black drivers and 26 percent for Latinos.
  • Impact of marijuana legalization: After the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, there has been a reduction in searches of both white and minority drivers. But the search rate remains twice as high for minorities, a trend also noted in a 2017 Stanford study.”

I can’t help but thinking that this is a continuation of Jim Crow policing that we have not been able to overcome since we abolished slavery. What do you think?