Bias Profiling in Policing: Analysis of Traffic Stop Data and the Search for a Benchmark

Gennaro F. Vito, University of Louisville
William F. Walsh, University of Louisville

In many American cities and localities, the stop practices of police agencies are being called into question. Bias profiling involves the selection of individuals based solely on a common trait of a group such as race, religion, ethnic origin, and sex. The policy issues is whether police are using race in particular as an indicator or predictor of criminality and a pretext for traffic stops. Subsequently, minorities are more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. Using data on traffic stops from two cities, this analysis considers the question of bias in police practices. The analysis will feature comparisons between the findings of the two cities and the result of a national survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The major methodological issue of the appropriate benchmarks for such studies will also be considered.

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Updated 05/20/2006