Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past

By: *Marthe Ngwashi

Blog Topic: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops

Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past.

 

Could racial profiling in traffic stops be an issue of the past? While difficult to determine whether discrimination or other factors dictate a traffic stop, people of color, as research indicates, continue to be stopped more often than whites.[1] For a traffic stop, the purpose of profiling based on race remains unsubstantiated, while the length and search rate for stops between a person of color and a similarly situated white driver may be no different at all.[2] In fact, one study noted that a higher level of discrimination on an officer’s part, does not even take place prior to a stop.[3] Analytically though, something likely more important than the stop itself is the character of each stop and the subsequent treatment of the individual(s) detained.[4]

All things considered, research verifies that subjectivity plays a role in an officer’s decision to make a stop.[5] As such, any attempts to discontinue a practice involving racial bias will require commitment and persistence on a police chief’s part and patience from the public. It is unknown whether the bias stems from the culture within a police department or merely a small group of problem officers.[6] As a result, it is evident that racial profiling in traffic stops is not an issue of the past.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

 


*Marthe Ngwashi is a staff member on Widener’s Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Marthe, click here to view her page.

[1] Racial Profiling and Traffic Stops, National Institute of Justice (Jan 10, 2013), http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/legitimacy/traffic-stops.htm#noteReferrer1

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

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