Exploring the Relation Between Driver and Officer Characteristics in Traffic Stops

Jeff Rojek, St. Louis University
Scott H. Decker, University of Missouri - St. Louis

ABSTRACT
The past three years have revealed a growth in data collection efforts to monitor police traffic stops. Only in a handful of these cases, however, has there been an examination of the relationship between driver and officer characteristics. Using data on 27,701 traffic stops conducted in 2001 by a large police department in the Midwest, this paper examines the patterns of driver and officer characteristics in traffic stops and subsequent stop activity. Overall, African American and White drivers were stopped at a rate relative to their representation in the city. However, once officer assignment was taken into account disproportional patterns emerged for both racial groups. White drivers were more likely to be stopped by officers working traffic assignments and African American drivers were more likely to be stopped by district patrol officers. In addition, though the rates for stops, searches and arrests were higher for African American drivers stopped by district parol officers, this pattern was similar for AFrican American and White Officers. Discussion is given to the findings and future research endeavors.

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Updated 05/20/2006