An ambitious Massachusetts program launched two years ago to explore the disproportionate number of minority drivers pulled over on roads failed to produce comprehensive results because nearly half of the targeted police departments did not follow the recommended guidelines and the state never received or reviewed any data, the Boston Globe reports. The lack of a statewide analysis leaves unanswered the central question that prompted African-American activists and lawmakers to demand the review: Is “driving while black” a real phenomenon in Massachusetts?
Gov. Deval Patrick plans to ask police departments to share their traffic data with the state. If he is not satisfied with their response, Patrick may require them to do so. Only 140 of the 247 police departments that had been targeted for special scrutiny followed the guidelines, which call for officers to fill out detailed reports every time they stop a driver. These reports include space to note the race and gender of the driver, the duration and reason for the stop, what type of road it happened on, and whether the car was searched and if so, what was found. Another 104 police departments noted the race and gender of the driver and the reason for the stop, but rejected the more detailed aspects. Police chiefs, many of whom have opposed the program since its inception, said the lack of results was predictable. Many chiefs contend that there is no widespread racial profiling in Massachusetts and that asking officers to fill out detailed reports on every traffic stop wastes police resources.