More than 100 people were shot and killed by police after a traffic stop this year, and 1 in 3 of them was black, making the roadside interaction one of the most common precursors to a fatal police shooting of a black person in 2015, the Washington Post reports. The shootings of blacks, whites and Hispanics were about equally likely to result from a traffic stop. Across all races, getting pulled over was the precursor to about 11 percent of fatal police shootings. Blacks accounted for a disproportionate share of traffic-stop deaths, a finding that experts on policing said provides new evidence that blacks are pulled over more frequently than other drivers.
U.S. Justice Department investigations of local and state police agencies have repeatedly found evidence of racial disparities in traffic enforcement. Last year, DOJ released a national survey showing that black drivers were significantly more likely than whites to have been pulled over in the previous 12 months. “In a society where the perception is that certain types of people look more suspicious than others, and when officers are directed to stop suspicious people, they will stop young African Americans in much higher rates than whites,” said Charles Epp, a professor at the University of Kansas who co-authored “Pulled Over,” a 2014 study of racial disparities in traffic stops. Epp said black people are also more likely than whites to be targeted for investigatory stops, in which officers stop a car primarily to search for drugs or check for warrants. That is an inherently tense situation that may explain the higher proportion of deadly shootings involving black drivers.