Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Study suggests Vermont law enforcement agencies more likely to profile black and Hispanic drivers

Black and Hispanic drivers in Vermont are stopped and searched at higher rates than other drivers, even though white and Asian drivers are more likely to be found with contraband, says a study by researchers at the University of Vermont and Cornell University. The study, which used 2015 data from 29 law-enforcement agencies—covering 78 percent of the state's population—found that black drivers are four times more likely than white drivers to be searched, and Hispanics three times more likely than whites. Asian drivers are less likely to be searched than other drivers.

"Black drivers are estimated to be stopped at a rate that is between 161 percent to 193 percent of their population share and Hispanics are estimated to be stopped at a rate that is 179 percent of their share of the population," states the report. Black drivers are searched 3.6 percent of the time, Hispanics 2.6 percent, whites 0.9 percent and Asians 0.5 percent. At the same time "hit rates" for contraband, searches that led to citations or an arrest, are highest for Asians, at 89 percent, followed by 67 percent for whites, 61 percent for Hispanics and 56 percent for blacks. (Rate of traffic stop searches in Vermont by race)
Warnings were given to black drivers 58.9 percent of the time, Hispanics 56.4 percent, whites 62 percent and Asians 60.6 percent. When it comes to tickets, black drivers receive one 40.6 percent of the time, Hispanics 42.1 percent, whites 37.4 percent and Asians 38.7 percent.

"The study is the first examining traffic policing and race following a 2014 state law mandating the data collection," Elizabeth Murray reports for the Burlington Free Press. While no state agency has been tasked with analyzing the data, law enforcement officials who attended a press conference Monday where the study was released, "said the data will be useful in examining current practices and informing training and supervision going forward."

Vermont is one the nation's most rural and least diverse states, with 94.8 percent of the population white, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics make up 1.8 percent of the population, blacks 1.3 percent and Asians 1.6 percent.

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