Police Chief Thomas Wydra of Hamden, Ct., is dubious about some police stops for defective equipment, NPR reports.. “You may have something hanging from your rearview mirror. That’s technically a violation,” he says. “You have an attachment on your license plate. That’s technically a violation. It’s a legal reason to stop the vehicle, even though, in the officer’s mind, that’s not the most important reason why they’re stopping the car.” Officers can use such stops to look for things like guns and drugs. But if an officer finds one illegal gun in 20 stops, is that effective? “Are these stops worth it?,” Wydra asks.
Hamden’s department was singled out by the state for its high rate of stopping minority drivers at disproportionately higher rates than whites. Wydra told officers he cared more about speeding, running red lights and road safety than about tinted windows. Hamden cut its defective equipment stops dramatically — from 19 percent to just 8 percent of all of its motor vehicle stops. The number of black drivers pulled over fell by 25 percent. “They went from being on the list of the top 10 towns with the largest racial disparities to being nowhere close to the top of the list,” says Ken Barone of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project.