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Impact of Race on the Police Decision to Search During a Traffic Stop: A Focal Concerns Theory Perspective

NCJ Number
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Volume: 28 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2012 Pages: 166-183
George E. Higgins; Gennaro F. Vito; Elizabeth L. Grossi
Date Published
May 2012
18 pages
This study contributes to the literature on racial profiling an important issue in contemporary policing.
Racial profiling is an important issue in contemporary policing. Research in this area, especially in the decision to search, has relied on an outcomes test and correlates that are largely devoid of theory. Thus, the research is unable to provide a clear understanding of police decision making during a traffic stop. The purpose of the present study was to examine this process. Using data from more than 36,000 traffic stops from Louisville, KY, the present study applies the focal concerns theory to this decision-making process. The research results indicate that blameworthiness is the primary reason that searches are performed for the entire sample of traffic stops as well as those for the Black and White subsamples. Abstract published by arrangement with Sage Journals.