Routine Justice: Research Shows How Racial and Gender Profiling Can Affect Outcome of Traffic Stops
MANHATTAN -- Racial profiling has gained national attention in recent years, and a Kansas State University researcher is finding that it can involve an additional factor: gender.
Jeremy Briggs, doctoral candidate in sociology, Topeka, is analyzing police actions during routine traffic stops to understand how race and gender are connected. Perhaps one of his most significant findings is that black and Hispanic women are just as likely as white men to be ticketed, arrested or searched during a traffic stop.
"Racial profiling has really come back into political discussions, especially in national media," Briggs said. "It still matters in traffic stops."
For his research, Briggs is using a national set of data called the Police Public Contact Survey. The data set was collected in 2005 and includes information from citizens above the age of 16 about their most recent contact with police. The data set includes traffic stops, which are the most common form of police-level contact.
Briggs looked at reasons for a traffic stop, some of which included speeding, turning lane violations, traffic light or stop sign violations, drunk driving check lanes and other reasons. Speeding was the most common reason for a traffic stop. He also looked at outcomes of the traffic stop: if the driver received a warning, if the driver received a ticket, if the driver was arrested or if the driver was searched.
"In a real scenario, any of those outcomes are possible at the same time," Briggs said. "A person could receive a ticket and be arrested. Or they could be searched but just receive a warning. There are a number of possibilities in any given stop."
From 23 possible outcome variables in the data, Briggs constructed a dependent variable that consisted of four mutually exclusive traffic stop outcomes. He used multinomial statistical techniques to estimate the strongest predictors of each of these outcomes.
Some of his most significant findings include:
* When compared with men, women were 23 percent less likely to be ticketed, 55 percent less likely to be arrested and 76 percent less likely to be searched when stopped by police. Women were more likely to only receive a warning or have no outcome when stopped by police during a traffic stop.
* Black and Hispanic drivers were significantly more likely to be searched, ticketed and arrested than white drivers when stopped by police. For example, black drivers were more than twice as likely to be searched or arrested when compared with white drivers. Hispanic drivers were almost three times as likely to be searched when compared with white drivers.