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Is It Time to Reconsider Traffic Stops?

“While traffic stop interactions with the police may be shrugged off as brief inconveniences for whites, for black Americans, they can lead to humiliation, violence, and even death. This has become clear over the last few years, as videos have surfaced, hashtags have trended, and reports have been released—opening up the black box of negative interactions between the police and drivers of color for the world to see.

“A forthcoming book, ‘Suspect Citizen: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tell Us About Policing And Race’ adds to that conversation, taking an unprecedented, granular look at the traffic stops in one state.

“In 1999, North Carolina became one of the first jurisdictions in the country to mandate data collection at traffic stops. The expressed goal was to suss out disparities in policing. The resulting dataset, which includes information about the demographics of the driver, the offense for which they were stopped, where they were stopped, and the outcome of the stop, was made public. But the state never actually released a comprehensive analysis of this information.

“That’s where Frank Baumgartner and Kelsey Shoub at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Derek Epp, now at the University of Texas, stepped in. They took on this unfulfilled mission, analyzing data going all the way back to 2002 when the data-collection mandate expanded to include almost all police stops in the state. ‘It is pretty much a census of every traffic stop,’ Baumgartner said.

“In the book, he and his colleagues lay out stark disparity in policing at North Carolina’s traffic stops, and unpack the reasons behind the trends they observe.”

FULL STORY published June 6, 2018 via CityLab