A study of North Carolina Highway Patrol traffic stops found that black drivers are slightly more likely to be cited but found no evidence of widespread racial profiling. The Raleigh News & Observer said the analysis, led by criminologist Matthew Zingraff of N.C. State University, was prompted partly by a News & Observer report in 1996 that an antidrug unit within the patrol was stopping black males twice as often as were other troopers on the same roads.
The study found that the unit, known as the Criminal Interdiction Team, was more apt to search vehicles driven by African-Americans, but that difference declined dramatically from 1997 to 2000. As the number of black drivers pulled over declined, the unit’s success went up as drugs turned up in more stops.
Sgt. Everett Clendenin, the Highway Patrol spokesman, said the patrol has taken steps — including cultural diversity training — to make sure troopers are following proper procedure for stops, making sure there is probable cause.
The study analyzed all vehicle searches made by troopers from 1997 to 2000, and all traffic stops in an eight-month period in 2000. African-Americans made up 21.2 percent of all drivers, but received 24.9 percent of all citations in 2000.
Zingraff said one reason the study took longer than anticipated is that the National Institute of Justice, a federal agency which supported it with a $472,000 grant, spent a year reviewing it.
Many states have grappled with the issue. Last year, all 70 federal agencies banned racial and ethnic profiling, and the Maryland State Police partially settled a racial-profiling lawsuit. The settlement included policy changes to help prevent profiling. In 2001, New Jersey paid $12.9 million to settle a lawsuit filed by four victims of a 1998 police shooting after statistics showed troopers were stopping disproportionate numbers of minorities in drug searches.