Data Collection as an Answer to Racial Profiling: A Process Analysis of Traffic Stop Data Collection in Rhode Island

Jack McDevitt, Northeastern University
Amy Farrell, Northeastern University

Within the last two years, hundreds of jurisdictions have begun to collect data on traffic stops as a way of addressing public allegations of racial profiling by police. The methodology employed to collect these data varies widely and the analytic approaches once these data are collected are even more disparate. This paper presents the results of a process evaluation for the traffic stop data collection in Rhode Island. Rhode Island began collecting information on the characteristics of each traffic stop made in the State on Jan 15, 2001. Rhode Island is one of very few States with legislation requiring all law enforcement agencies in the jurisdiction to collect traffic stop information. As the academic partner to the State Attorney General, the authors assisted in the design, implementation, and the analysis of the data. This paper will present a process evaluation of the effort to implement a traffic stop data collection system in an entire State and will present some preliminary results from the analysis of this data. In addition, this paper discusses the role of the community in the data collection efforts and the challenges faced by agencies who seek to include or exclude community members in the process.

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Updated 05/20/2006