A statewide study of traffic stops has found new evidence of possible racial-profiling by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, says the Arizona Republic. Researchers cautioned that other factors may explain the high rate of arrests and vehicle searches involving minorities. The University of Cincinnati report said highway patrol officers were more than twice as likely to search vehicles driven by Hispanics and Blacks than those operated by Anglos during 2006. Minority motorists also were far more likely to be arrested and to be hit with multiple traffic citations. The most dramatic findings involved the treatment of Hispanic motorists. They were the most likely to be searched, arrested, cited, and to receive multiple citations but least likely to get off with warnings.
The team of investigators, headed by Robin Engel of the university’s Policing Institute, recommends that the state gather more data for analysis in the future. Engel said the findings mirror racial disparities common to police organizations throughout the nation. She said it’s not possible to conclude that discrimination is to blame. “Until I can get into the mind of an officer, I cannot determine whether he or she is making stops based on race. No researcher can do that,” Engel said. “It could be officer bias. I haven’t ruled that out.” Dan Pachoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona, said the new data are similar to findings by plaintiffs three years ago. “It clearly indicates racially biased decision-making,” he said.