New State Police traffic-stop data shows progress in addressing racial disparities

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New State Police traffic-stop data shows progress in addressing racial disparities

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 2:00pm -- Brandon

Vermont Business Magazine Traffic-stop data from 2018 released today by the Vermont State Police show the agency is continuing to make progress in addressing racial disparities in discretionary traffic stops and improving data quality.

Among the key takeaways:

  • Searches of motorists occurred in only a small amount of discretionary traffic stops but turned up contraband more than 81.59% percent of the time.
  • Disparities in search rates between white drivers and minority drivers remain, but the gap is narrowing.

The release of data came during a meeting Monday, June 17, 2019, of the Fair and Impartial Policing Committee at Vermont Law School in South Royalton.

This is the fourth year in a row the state police have presented annual discretionary traffic-stop data.

For every discretionary traffic stop, a Vermont state trooper will issue either a traffic ticket or a written warning. Data collected on each of these documents must include, age, gender, race of driver, reason for the stop, type of search if conducted and evidence if located, along with the outcome of the stop. All this data must be posted annually for public viewing before Sept. 1 of each year.

The 2018 data show:

  • Total stops: The state police stopped 57,964 motor vehicles in 2018, a decrease of 6,129 stops from 2017 (64,093).
  • Demographics:
    • White operators: 54,299 stops, accounting for 93.68 percent of total stops. There were 59,998 such stops in 2017.
    • Black operators: 1,559 stops, accounting for 2.69 percent of total. In 2017, there were 1,616 such stops.
    • Asian operators: 1,217 stops, accounting for 2.10 percent of total. There were 1473 such stops in 2017.
    • Hispanic operators: 782 stops, accounting for 1.35 percent of total. There were 932 such stops in 2017.
    • Native American operators: 46 stops, accounting for 0.08 percent of total. In 2017, there were 64 such stops.
  • Searches: The Vermont State Police searched 565 operators in 2017. That translates to about 0.009 percent of total stops.
    • White operators: 390. Contraband found: 319 (hit rate 81.79 percent).
    • Black operators: 30. Contraband found: 24 (hit rate 80.00 percent).
    • Asian operators: 5. Contraband found: 5 (hit rate 100 percent).
    • Hispanic operators: 15. Contraband found: 11 (hit rate 73.33 percent).
    • Native American: 0.
  • Tickets: 36.6 percent of all operators stopped received a ticket, with a demographic breakdown as follows:
    • White operators: 36.2 percent.
    • Black operators: 40.1 percent.
    • Asian operators: 50.4 percent.
    • Hispanic operators: 42.5 percent.
    • Native American operators: 42.2 percent.

Since 2015, the Vermont State Police has made numerous changes to address fair and impartial policing in the state. The agency created the position of director of fair and impartial policing and community affairs, a post currently held by Captain Garry Scott. The director is responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive program to ensure fair and impartial policing practices at all levels of the state police; building relationships of trust with minority communities; diversifying the workforce; and improving cultural awareness.

The state police also has a standing Fair and Impartial Policing Committee, composed of a diverse cross-section of Vermonters, including members of the state police, the NAACP of Rutland and Windham Counties, the LGBTQIA Alliance & Pride Center, the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, state residents and others. The committee’s mission is to advise the Vermont State Police on matters related to impartial and ethical policing and community outreach.

Source: Vermont State Police