California Traffic Citation Discrimination

Jun 24, 19 by Jorian Goes

California Traffic Citation Discrimination

Does Discrimination Play a Part in Traffic Stops?

The topic of discrimination during traffic stops (and in policing in general) has been a hot topic in our society for years. It is commonly theorized that there is a high level of discrimination based on race when it comes to traffic tickets in California. However, until recently there hasn’t been adequate research to determine if these theories are indeed correct.

The Stanford Open Policing Project started collecting records of traffic stops nationwide in 2015. The project has looked at over 200 million records of traffic stop and search data from the United States. The project looked at data from 9 cities in California and the California State Patrol throughout their research. By looking at this data, the level of discrimination in traffic tickets in California can be determined (or at least to a certain extent).

The first type of data that the Stanford Open Policing Project analyzed was stop rates in specific locations. It is mentioned that this data is hard to interpret when it comes to discrimination by race since multiple factors influence the stop rate of different ethnicity that doesn’t constitute a bias (driving behavior, time spent on the road, racial composition of the local population, those who routinely drive through the area etc.).

Breaking Down the Numbers

However, it was determined that on a national level

Officers did generally stop black drivers at a higher rate than white drivers

but they stopped Hispanic drivers at a similar or lower rate than white drivers. In Bakersfield it was found there were 9 stops per 100 black drivers, 9 stops per 100 white drivers, and 4 stops per 100 Hispanic drivers. In Long Beach it was found there were 13 stops per 100 black drivers, 6 stops per 100 white drivers, and 6 stops per 100 Hispanic drivers. In San Diego, there were 16 stops per 100 black drivers, 9 stops per 100 white drivers, and 9 stops per 100 Hispanic drivers.

What Groups Are Targeted?

In San Francisco there were 33 stops per 100 black drivers, 10 stops per 100 white drivers, and 9 stops per 100 Hispanic drivers. In San Jose, there were 10 stops per 100 black drivers, 2 stops per 100 white drivers, and 5 stops per 100 Hispanic drivers. In Santa Ana there were 11 stops per 100 black drivers, 4 stops per 100 white drivers, and 3 stops per 100 Hispanic drivers. The last California city to be analyzed was Stockton where there were 6 stops per 100 black drivers, 3 stops per 100 white drivers, and 3 stops per 100 Hispanic drivers.

When it comes to what occurs after the stop, the research showed that black drivers have a higher rate of receiving a ticket than white drivers by 20% and Hispanic drivers are 30% more likely to receive a ticket than white drivers. When analyzing and commuting this data the Stanford Open Policing Project did take age, gender and location into consideration. So, does this data mean that California police officers generally discriminate based on race when it comes to traffic tickets? It truly can’t be determined on this data alone, but the data does show evidence that racial bias does play a role.