Traffic Stops and Racial/Ethnic Profiling in Southern California

Robert Nash Parker, University of California - Riverside
Kay K. Pih, University of California - Riverside
Holly Meade, University of California - Riverside
Helen Ross, University of California - Riverside
Janet Hill, University of California - Riverside
Emily O'Neill, University of California - Riverside
Bryan Anderson, University of California - Riverside

The issue of racial and ethnic profiling by police officersm has become an important topic for research, media, and policy makers in the US Federal government and in a variety of state and local governments. In California, recently passed legislation outlaws racial profiling by law enforcement officers, and the California Highway Patrol was mandated by the state to collect demographic data on all traffic stops. The City of Riverside, a community with a troubled community/police relationship, and under a negotiated settlement with the California Attorney, provides a unique set of circumstances within which to examine racial and ethnic profiling. The Riverside Police Department uses a citation form for traffic stops that contains the Officer's attribution of the race and/or ethnicity of the driver. Combined with a diverse population with significant number of African-Americans and Latinos in a population of about 250,000, makes this a very interesting site to undertake such research. Approximately 20,000 paper citations from 1998 were obtained from the department; these were sorted and a random sample of 4,000 citations were selected. Data on police deployment and demographic composition was also obtained to control for police activity and composition effects. Data was also available for time of day, day of the week, type of vehicle, and the nature of the citation, and these data were linked in a geospatial file for analysis. Results indicate a clear pattern of racial, but little ethnic profiling, with certain combinations of neighborhood population race of the driver, and time of day being especially prominent.

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Updated 05/20/2006