Racial disparities remain
The Vermont State Police has released traffic-stop data from 2019, marking the fifth consecutive year the agency has published its raw numbers to continue the public discussion on how to address racial disparities in discretionary car stops.
Among the key takeaways:
The number of searches decreased for motorists in discretionary traffic stops compared with 2018, while troopers uncovered illegal items in more than 70% of the searches. The rate at which searches resulted in finding illegal items (known as the “hit rate”) decreased by 6% from 2018.
Racial disparities remain between who is searched and who is issued traffic tickets compared with warnings.
The majority of stops and searches of motorists occur on interstate highways (I-89 and I-91) and involve vehicles with non-Vermont plates.
The State Police conducts about 58,000 car stops a year, in addition to the roughly 58,600 calls for service per year (assaults, homicides, vehicle crashes, alarms, hate crimes, vandalism, violations of court orders, etc).
Police commanders say the 2019 data shows the agency must continue to address the disparate impact of traffic stop outcomes.
“These numbers show we still have work to do,” said Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police. “The latest traffic stop data indicate that racial disparities continue to persist. Our efforts over the past decade to address these disparities, while significant, have not been enough to eliminate them. We are working with many community partners and engaging the full resources of our Fair and Impartial Policing Committee to dig into the numbers, find out what’s behind them, and redouble our efforts to eliminate racial disparities, which have no place in policing.”
The State Police presented its full report on the 2019 traffic stop data during an online meeting Tuesday, Aug. 18, of the Fair and Impartial Policing Committee. The raw data also is posted at vsp.vermont.gov/communityaffairs/trafficstops.