Study Finds VT Police Biased; Agency Say Troopers Aren’t

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Last spring, analyses of five years of data revealed clear racial disparities in Vermont State Police traffic stops. But after conversations with the troopers whose stops showed the greatest disparities, state police officials say they’ve found no instances of implicit or explicit racial bias, reports Vermont Public Radio. The conclusion illustrates the challenge of pinpointing the problem, and advocates say the police need to do more to identify bias in individual officers. An analysis by Northeastern University showed a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic drivers were pulled over. University of Vermont economics professor Stephanie Seguino then analyzed the data to find patterns after a car is pulled over, when an officer can be more certain of the race of the driver.

Seguino found that particularly for African-Americans, but also for Hispanics, there was a significantly higher likelihood of a driver being ticketed, arrested or searched compared to white drivers. The data included a breakdown by individual troopers, who were not identified publicly. This allowed Capt. Ingrid Jonas, the agency’s fair and impartial policing director, to talk with troopers who were “outliers” in the data. She said she found reasonable explanations. “I have not walked away from those interviews, those discussions, with a sense that this person might have an unconscious or even a conscious problem with bias,” she says.

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