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IMRP Releases Third Annual Traffic Stop Analysis

At a briefing Nov. 9 before the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Central Connecticut State University’s Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy released the third annual analysis of police traffic stop data.

The report is presented in two parts: an annual study of the 560,000 traffic stops conducted between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016 and an aggregate study of the more than 1,755,000 traffic stops conducted over the first three years of this initiative from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2016.

Racial Profiling Advisory Board Chair William Dyson says the release of this report “continues to engender a conversation in this state that will lead to improved relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Overall in Connecticut, 14.7 percent of motorists stopped were observed to be black and a comparable 13.1 were motorists of Hispanic descent in the October 2015 through September 2016 sample. The analysis found that the minority stops were more likely to have occurred during daylight hours when a driver’s race and ethnicity is more visible. The results also found Connecticut police departments exhibit a strong tendency to be less successful finding contraband in motorist searches involving minority drivers.

In the three-year aggregate analysis, 14.1 percent of motorists stopped were observed to be black and a comparable 12.5 were motorists of Hispanic descent. This analysis also confirmed that the minority stops were more likely to have occurred during daylight hours when a driver’s race and ethnicity is more visible. The results also found Connecticut police departments exhibit a strong tendency to be less successful finding contraband in motorist searches involving minority drivers.

The entirety of the statewide traffic stop data analysis is used as a screening tool by which the Advisory Board and project staff can focus resources on departments that display the greatest level of disparities in their stop data. Racial and ethnic disparities in any traffic stop analysis do not, by themselves, provide conclusive evidence of racial profiling. Statistical disparities, however, provide evidence of the presence of idiosyncratic data trends that warrant further analysis.

The data identified seven municipal police departments and one state police troop that exhibit a statistically significant racial or ethnic disparity in traffic stops. They are the Berlin, Darien, Meriden, Monroe, Newtown, Norwich, and Ridgefield police departments and State Police Troop B based in North Canaan.

Ken Barone, CCSU’s IMRP project manager, says, “We first try to answer the question, do racial and ethnic disparities exist in traffic stop and search data? Once again this analysis shows that Connecticut has significant racial and ethnic disparities in its traffic stop and search data. However, the more challenging question to answer is, what are the factors contributing to those racial and ethnic disparities?”

To address the question of what contributes to racial and ethnic disparities, the IMRP will work with law enforcement, the Advisory Board, and the public to conduct an in-depth, follow-up analysis on the departments identified in this report. Over the past two years, the IMRP has conducted similar analyses, with recommendations, of almost 20 departments in Connecticut. These analyses have shown how policing differs from one community to another based on a variety of factors, such as the location of accidents, high volume of service calls, high crime rate areas, and areas with major traffic generators such as shopping and entertainment districts. These insights potentially can provide the public with a greater understanding of how and why police administrators make decisions when deploying resources.

Andrew Clark, CCSU’s IMRP director said, “The vast majority of people in Connecticut and this country believe that racial profiling should not exist. This is evidenced in the multitude of laws banning it, including the one that drives this project in Connecticut. Now how do you go about addressing the issue in a concrete and measurable way? That has vexed just about every state and locality to date. What Connecticut shows, is that by all stakeholders coming to the table and having the difficult data-driven conversations, over time we can begin to chip away at the solutions.”   

For more information or for a copy of the November 2017 report, go to www.ctrp3.org.

—Courier staff

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