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A reported, released 26 March, 2018 revisited the “Driving While Black” report released by Professors Seguino and Brooks last year. This report provided further analysis including regression testing to address concerns expressed by law enforcement over the past year. The conclusion of this report is provided below:
“Vermont has embarked on a long-term project of using data to expand awareness of traffic policing and race. Because traffic stops are the most frequent interaction people have with the police, combined with the large number of traffic stops in any given year, data on stops can be a useful tool for understanding the extent of racial disparities in these interactions. They are, in other words, a way of holding up a mirror to ourselves.
Though data often and usually are imperfect, that does not preclude their usefulness. In this report, we have discussed an array of concerns with traffic stop data quality, many of which have been shared with us by police. Efforts to improve data quality are important and should continue to be pursued. It is clear that there are a number of agencies pursuing that goal. In the interim, however, the data we do have are useful at gauging racial disparities in policing and give no evidence of being so systematically flawed that they are unusable.
In this report, we provide details on a statistical analysis that controls for other factors that may influence the probability of being searched or of contraband being found during a search. Those results demonstrate that while other factors also contribute to the likelihood of either of those outcomes, racial disparities continue to exist when those factors are controlled for. In particular, Black and Hispanic drivers in Vermont are substantially more likely to be searched than White or Asian drivers, and are less likely to be found with contraband. The levels of disparity indicated by the logistic regressions are very similar to the search and hit rate ratios in our original 2017 study. The use of more rigorous statistical techniques therefore does not alter the nature of our 2017 findings.
These disparities should be of great concern to law enforcement agencies, communities, and legislators. While the disparities in no way suggest that agencies are intentionally profiling people of color, they do indicate the necessity for law enforcement to be selfreflective about their policing practices and to interrogate the role of implicit bias in decision-making. Research shows that implicit racial bias is evident in numerous domains, not just policing. As its name suggests, it is often unconscious rather than intentional. Several agencies have planned or are planning implicit bias trainings, a positive step to work toward fair and unbiased policing in Vermont. The Vermont State 24 Police has gone beyond this to rigorously examine a wide array of practices, procedures, and policies to ensure fair and impartial policing at every level.
Finally, with regard to the descriptive analysis of 2016 VSP contraband, it is instructive that for searches turning up heroin, cocaine, and opioids, drugs that are so much in the Vermont news of late, only White drivers were found with such contraband. There may be other aspects of drug trafficking in Vermont not reflected in these data. But the data tell us that in terms of discretionary searches in the course of traffic policing, the stereotype, held by society as a whole, that people of color are more likely to be drug traffickers is erroneous.”
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