(WHTM) — Do Pennsylvania State Police racially profile during traffic stops? That is just one of the questions they hope to answer in a comprehensive study, and on Tuesday, the results were released in a 169-page report.
Data from nearly half a million traffic stops in 2022 were analyzed by the National Policing Institute.
The headline from the analysis is that drivers of color, once they are pulled over, are a little more likely to be searched or arrested. But that likelihood is statistically insignificant according to the study.
The study says Black drivers were 1.9x more likely and Hispanic drivers were 1.3x more likely than White drivers to be searched for discretionary reasons.
“The predicted probabilities for discretionary searches indicated that the likelihood of being searched after considering other factors was 2.7% for Black drivers, 2.1% for Hispanic drivers, and 1.4% for White drivers,” said the study’s search and seizure findings. “Although there are differences in the likelihood of being searched across racial/ethnic groups, the overall likelihood of being searched across all racial/ethnic groups is quite low.”
Department trends in these descriptive findings are summarized below.
- Across the PSP, most traffic stops occurred on a weekday (69%), during the daytime (66%), and on a state highway (53%) or an interstate (34%).
- Most stops lasted between 1-15 minutes (88%), involved vehicles registered in Pennsylvania (80%), and without passengers (80%).
- The most frequent stop reason was speeding (40%), with an average of 21.4 mph over the posted speed limit.
- Most drivers stopped were male (67%), Pennsylvania residents (81%), and displayed civil behavior towards the PSP trooper (98%).
In terms of the drivers’ race and ethnicity, the study found:
- White (78.5%), Black (14.4%), American Indian or Alaskan Native (0.3%), Asian or Pacific Islander (1.8%), unknown (5.0%).
- Ethnicity: Hispanic (8.2%), not Hispanic (85.6%), unknown (6.2%).
- The percentage of non-Hispanic White drivers stopped was 71.1%.
State Police say they issued guidance clarifying the collection of race and ethnicity on August 12, 2022, and the average percentages of unknown race and ethnicity dropped in half.
Across the department:
- 56.8% of stops resulted in a verbal (18.5%) or written warning (38.3%) being
- issued to the driver.
- 57.0% resulted in a citation being issued to the driver. 4.6% of stops resulted in the arrest of the driver.
- The sum of these percentages exceeds 100% because motorists can receive more than one stop outcome in a single stop.
At the department level, statistically significant bivariate differences by drivers’ race/ethnicity and gender were noted for all outcomes.
- % of stopped drivers issued a verbal warning:
- 17.7% of White drivers
- 21.2% of Black drivers
- 19.7% of Hispanic drivers
- % of stopped drivers issued written warnings:
- 39.4% of White drivers
- 36.7% of Black drivers
- 36.1% of Hispanic drivers
- % of stopped drivers issued citations:
- 57.3% of White drivers
- 54.3% of Black drivers
- 55.1% of Hispanic drivers
- % of stopped drivers arrested:
- 4.3% of White drivers
- 6.6% of Black drivers
- 5.8% of Hispanic drivers
State Police say the reported differences by drivers’ race/ethnicity varied across organizational units.
It should be noted that the institute could only collect data once a person is pulled over. They did not analyze why Troopers decided to make that specific traffic stop.
The study gave four recommendations: State Police should continue to refine traffic stop data collection, continue to examine differences in traffic stop patterns and trends, explore the content and impact of search and seizure training (particularly SHIELD criminal interdiction training), and enhance accountability mechanisms and oversight of trooper conduct during traffic stops, particularly for stops that result in consent searches.
The full report can be read below:
The commissioner promised to continue to collect and analyze data and work on equity issues.