Report On Traffic Stops And Racial Profiling Questions Police Search Policies | Connecticut Public Radio

Report On Traffic Stops And Racial Profiling Questions Police Search Policies

Jul 21, 2017

The Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy has released a follow-up to last year's report looking at traffic stop data and racial profiling in Connecticut.

The follow-up report by the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project focused on Bloomfield, Meriden, Newington, New Milford, Norwalk, Trumbull, West Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor -- towns that showed statistically higher instances of stopping minority motorists in the 2016 report than the rest of the state.  

Several of these towns border larger cities.

Ken Barone is a Policy and Research Specialist with the IMRP at Central Connecticut State University. He said the report concluded that higher police presence in these border towns can be attributed to a variety of reasons other than racial bias.

“Those tend to be areas that are busier in nature, more traffic volume, there's a higher rate of traffic accidents, there's a higher rate of crime, and the majority of 911 calls come from these areas,” Barone said.

But the report also found that overall, white drivers were more likely to be stopped for hazardous driving behaviors, things like speeding and reckless driving. Black and Hispanic drivers were more likely to be stopped for vehicle equipment violations, like a broken taillight, as well as registration violations.

Barone said police may use a vehicle equipment violation as a pretext to search a minority driver's vehicle. But ironically, officers are more likely to find contraband -- like drugs and illegal guns -- after stopping someone for hazardous driving.

Police in some of the towns in the report conducted consent searches, where the driver gives the officer permission to search the vehicle, at a much higher rate than rest of the state.

Barone questioned the effectiveness of consent searches, recommended that those towns review their policies regarding this type of search.

“Consent searches yield significantly less contraband than searches as a result of, say, probable cause, and they are significantly more likely to be used on minority drivers,” he said.

The follow-up report also found 18 police officers who stopped a statistically significant higher percentage of minority drivers than other officers in their department who conducted similar stops. Barone said these officers may not necessarily be involved in racial profiling.

“It’s important to note there may be other factors that could explain this disparity being identified,” he said.