Traffic stop study shows no racial or ethnic bias

PULLMAN — Washington State University researchers will present their findings on June 28 from phase three of a four-year study examining whether there are any patterns of racial or ethnic bias or profiling in traffic stops.

The study, conducted at the request of the Washington State Patrol, examined data from more than a million traffic stops.  Two presentations will be made – in Spokane and Seattle.

A report, entitled “Assessment of Racial and Ethnic Equity and Bias in Stops, Citations and Searches Using Multivariate Quantitative and Multi-method Qualitative Research Techniques,” has been issued by the research team. The findings detailed in that report indicate that the team found no systematic pattern of racially/ethnically disproportionate contact or citation.

WSU researchers Michael J. Gaffney, Nicholas P. Lovrich and Clayton Mosher will present their findings and respond to questions at 10:30 a.m. in Spokane on the WSU Spokane campus, 310 N. Riverpoint Blvd., and at 3 p.m. in Bellevue at the WSP District 2 Headquarters, 2803 156th Ave. S.E., Bellevue.

Not present will be the other members of the research team, professors Mitch Pickerill and Travis Pratt and researcher Jennifer Albright. The WSP will be represented by Chief John Batiste and assistant chief Brian Ursino, Field Operations Bureau.

The research team reviewed data on more than a million traffic stops conducted by the WSP as well as photo identifications of citizens stopped and/or searched to identify and confirm race. They also conducted follow-up surveys of thousands of citizens relating to their treatment during a traffic stop, as well as focus group sessions of citizens and WSP officers and supervisors across the state.

One of the major issues facing law enforcement today is the issue of racial profiling. The perception of racially discriminatory policing within minority communities erodes trust and undermines law enforcement efforts. The independent, university-based analysis was done to promote community outreach and dialogue and to provide findings which might be used to enhance professional standards within all of law enforcement.