Data shows police are more likely to pull over black and Latino drivers, even though a University of Vermont study of policing practices suggests white drivers are more frequently found with drugs and other contraband. According to the study, racial disparities in policing practices increased between 2011 and 2015.
Racial Disparities in Vermont Policing
The study looked at traffic stops between July 1, 2010, and December 31, 2015. Black drivers were more likely than any other racial group to be stopped, with Hispanics a close second. Police officers searched black motorists 4.6 times as frequently as they searched whites, and they searched Hispanic drivers four times as frequently as whites.
White drivers were significantly more likely to have contraband such as drugs, but less likely to be arrested. Asian drivers faced similar stop and search rates to whites, but were more likely to receive a citation. Asians were cited in 48.1% of stops, and whites were cited in 36.9%.
The study also showed significant variability among troopers in their rates of stopping and searching motorists of color, suggesting some police officers promote even larger racial disparities or instances of racism.
An earlier study, released in May 2016, found similar disparities. In that study, police searched black motorists at five times the rate of whites. About 1.1% of white motorists who were pulled over were searched, compared to 5.1% of black motorists, 4% of Hispanic motorists, 3.9% of Native American motorists, and 0.8% of Asian motorists.
Nationwide Trends in Criminal Justice
Vermont’s policing and incarceration rates reflect a larger nationwide trend. A 2013 Bureau of Justice Statistics report also found police are more likely to search black drivers. Disparities varied across geographic locations. Connecticut police, for example, searched black drivers at 2.6 times the rate of whites, while Chicago police searched them five times more often than whites.
Another recent study suggested judges sentence black defendants more harshly for petty crimes.
- Black, Hispanic drivers stopped most often, white drivers most likely to have contraband. (2016, July 1). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-07/uov-bhd070116.php
- Guo, J. (2015, October 27). Police are searching black drivers more often, but finding more illegal stuff with white drivers. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/10/27/police-are-searching-black-drivers-more-often-but-finding-more-illegal-stuff-with-white-drivers-2/
- Hewitt, E. (2016, May 25). Racial disparities documented in state police traffic stops. Retrieved from http://vtdigger.org/2016/05/25/racial-disparities-documented-in-state-police-traffic-stops/
- Langton, L., PhD, & Durose, M. (2013, September). Police behavior during traffic and street stops, 2011 [PDF]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics.
- Nellis, A., PhD. (2016). The color of justice: Racial and ethnic disparity in state prisons[PDF]. Washington, D.C.: The Sentencing Project.
- True, M. (2016, July 1). New reports show stark racial disparities in Vermont policing and incarceration. Retrieved from https://vtdigger.org/2016/07/01/new-reports-show-stark-racial-disparities-in-vermont-policing-and-incarceration/
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