CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, January 28, 2022

Heise on Data on Race, Gender, and Traffic Stops

The weight of existing research focusing on distributional concerns arising out of the police-initiated traffic stop context and their outcomes focuses on drivers’ race and gender. Such a research focus, however, largely ignores the potential influence of police officers’ race and gender. Broadening the research focus on the complex dynamics incident to the police-initiated traffic stop context would permit more granular analyses of how key police officer and driver race and gender pairings interact. More specifically, if one expects that black drivers are systematically disadvantaged in traffic stop outcomes owing to racial animus, this disadvantage should be especially acute when the police officer initiating the traffic stop is white. Likewise, if gender stereotypes contribute to systematically more favorable traffic stop outcomes for female drivers, this advantage should be particularly evident when the police office is male. Despite a research design that self-consciously tilts in favor of finding distributional concerns flowing from traffic stops by focusing on two police/driver race and gender pairings where expectations for evidence of systematic bias are at their highest, results from this study indicate that neither pairing’s influence achieves statistical significance. That is to say, the received conventional wisdoms regarding a disturbing influence—and interaction—of police/driver race and gender pairings in the police-initiated traffic stop context do not find empirical support from the null results in this study. What factors do emerge as important, however, include various reasons motivating traffic stops, police officer gender, and driver age.

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