New Study Confirms Racial Bias in Police Stops

New Study Confirms Racial Bias in Police Stops March 22, 2019

We’ve already seen study after study that shows racial bias in stops made by the police, but a new study, perhaps the largest ever done, has found that black drivers are significantly more likely to be pulled over and searched than white drivers. This should come as a shock to absolutely no one.

A large-scale study of traffic stops across the U.S. found significant black-versus-white disparities in how often drivers were stopped and searched by police, as well as evidence of racial bias behind those disparities.

Black drivers were about 20 percent more likely to be stopped by police than were white drivers, according to a study published last week by Stanford University’s Open Policing Project.

Researchers looked at data for nearly 100 million traffic stops from 2011 to 2017, carried out by 21 state patrol agencies, including in California, New York and Texas, as well as 29 municipal police departments, including Denver; Tampa, Florida; and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

That’s actually less bias than most other studies have found. But when you look at searches, you get a much clearer picture of the problem:

In terms of searches, the study found that, although police were more likely to find drugs, guns or other contraband in stops of white drivers, black drivers were still searched about 1.5 to 2 times as often.

The analysis “reveals evidence of widespread discrimination” in law enforcement’s decisions to stop and search drivers, the study said.

This is mostly a result not of overt racism, but unconscious racial biases. The police need “reasonable suspicion” to pull someone over and search them. White drivers who are searched are more likely to be found with contraband because their behavior showed actual reason to be suspicious, whereas black drivers are viewed as inherently suspicious and thus much more likely to be searched. I don’t know how you go about fixing this, but it’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

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