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Policing Race: The Racial Stratification of Searches in Police Traffic Stops

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 50 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2012 Pages: 993-1024
Jeff Rojek; Richard Rosenfeld; Scott Decker
Date Published
November 2012
32 pages
This study investigated the effect that the race of the police officer and driver has on the likelihood that a search will occur during a traffic stop.
Research on race effects in police traffic stops is theoretically underdeveloped. In this study, the authors derived propositions from Donald Black's theory of law to explain the interaction effects of officer and driver race on searches in traffic stops in St. Louis, MO. The citywide results and those for stops in predominantly White communities are generally consistent with the theory: Searches are more likely in stops of Black drivers than in those of White drivers, especially by White officers, controlling for other characteristics of the officer, driver, and stop. In predominantly Black communities, however, stops of White drivers by White officers are most likely to result in a search. The authors interpret both sets of results as manifestations of racial profiling in segregated communities and suggest that Black's theory of law remains a promising theoretical framework for future research on the continuing significance of race-based policing in the United States. (Published Abstract)


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