Driver Stop-And-Frisk: Blacks 3X More Likely Than Whites To Be Searched


The police stop, question, and frisk tactics that have proved controversial in New York City can be found elsewhere, says the Washington Monthly. Authors Charles Epp and Steven Maynard-Moody surveyed 2,329 people in and around Kansas City, where drivers rather than pedestrians tend to be the target of stop-and-frisk-type operations. The data allowed them to distinguish stops to enforce traffic safety laws—like speeding at fifteen miles per hour over the limit—from stops to investigate the driver. The key finding is that these two types of stops differ from start to finish. In traffic safety stops, based on clear violations of the law, officers quickly issue a ticket or warning and let the driver go.

In investigatory stops officers drag the stop out as they look at the vehicle's interior, ask probing questions, and ultimately seek consent for a search (drivers almost always agree, feeling they have no real choice in the matter). The key influence on who is stopped in traffic safety stops is how you drive; in investigatory stops it is who you are, and being black is the leading influence. In traffic safety stops, being black has no influence: African Americans are not significantly more likely than whites to be stopped for clear traffic safety law violations. In investigatory stops, a black man 25 or younger has a 28 percent chance of being stopped for an investigatory reason over the course of a year; a similar young white man has a 12.5 percent chance, and a similar young white woman has only a 7 percent chance. And this is after taking into account other possible influences on being stopped, like how you drive. Overall, black drivers are nearly three times more likely than whites to be subjected to investigatory stops.

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