Missouri Traffic Stops: Ticket or Warning.
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
Home |
The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
COLLINS, D. L. (2005). Missouri Traffic Stops: Ticket or Warning.. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 8. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved December 11, 2017 .

Missouri Traffic Stops: Ticket or Warning.
DARCY L. COLLINS
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
ABSTRACT
Racial profiling by police of minority citizens is a controversial topic. The purpose of the research is to analyze the traffic stop data reported by Missouri law enforcement to find a correlation between the race of the citizen and the results of the traffic stop: ticket or warning. The data from 60 police departments was retrieved from the Missouri Attorney Generalís website and analyzed using multiple regression. In this study there was no significant relationship between the race of the citizen and the results of the traffic stop. Although non-significant, the data revealed that African Americans stopped were less likely to receive a citation and more likely to receive a warning than Caucasian or Hispanic citizens.

MISSOURI TRAFFIC STOPS: TICKET OR WARNING.
Every day law enforcement officers are patrolling the streets and neighborhoods in which we work and live. Officers find themselves handling many tasks such as alarms to armed robberies. Other officers patrol the roadways, looking for mobile criminal activity and traffic violations that endanger the safety of other motorists. Each day, these officers conduct numerous traffic stops. Citizens are temporarily detained during these traffic stops of which various offenses have occurred. Each traffic stop can result in a warning, a ticket, searches, and even arrest. How does the officer determine which action to take? Are Caucasian, African American, or Hispanic citizens subjected to a different level of treatment in regards to police contacts? Does the final result of the contact vary depending on the race of the driver? Police officers are given the power of discretion in dealing with different situations in the line of duty. Withrow (2004a) states that an officerís application of discretion can depend on the context of a situation. The theory of contextual attentiveness, states that officers use their knowledge of what is inconsistent and act accordingly to that knowledge. An officer notices something that is inconsistent and acts to investigate the inconsistency. Officers learn that the investigations of inconsistencies lead to arrests, information, or interruption of criminal activities. Each year Missouri state law requires law enforcement agencies to report information on each traffic stop conducted, including demographics about the citizen detained. The information on the traffic stops are reported to the Missouri Attorney Generals office and analyzed. In the state of Missouri, it was reported that 1,360,814 traffic stops were conducted in 2003, by 725 law enforcement agencies. Racial profiling of minority groups by police is a criticism of law enforcement throughout the county. There is no universally accepted definition for racial profiling, instead many definitions racial profiling exists. The Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies defines racial profiling as interdiction, detention, arrest, or other nonconsensual treatment of an individual because of a characteristic or status (CALEA, 1999, as cited in Rojek, Rosenfeld, & Decker,2004). Rojek et al. (2004) study of Missouri traffic stops measured racial profiling using the term disparity, meaning adverse treatment of members of certain groups in the absence of evidence that such treatment is warranted or deserved. The study found that black and Hispanic citizens in Missouri were more than twice as likely to be searched and arrested than white citizens. Withrow (2004b) studied the traffic stops of Wichita, Kansas to determine if the percent of the population of each race of citizen correlated with percent of that citizenís involvement with police practices. The Wichita Stop Study found that African American citizens were stopped at a higher rate than non-African American, and that the African American and Hispanic citizens were more likely to be searched than non-African American and non-Hispanics. Other researches have found similar data in the study of law enforcement throughout the country. The data provided for the studies is limited to the citizens that are noticed and detained by the police. The information law enforcement officers submit is limited to demographic information and information about reason for the traffic stop. There is no record of how many citizens are not stopped for the same violations of the law.The purpose of the research is to analyze the traffic stop data reported by Missouri law enforcement to find a correlation between race of the citizen and the results of the traffic stop; ticket or warning. The study will research the difference in correlations between communities with a lower minority population and communities with a higher minority population.


MISSOURI TRAFFIC STOPS: TICKET OR WARNING.
Every day law enforcement officers are patrolling the streets and neighborhoods in which we work and live. Officers find themselves handling many tasks such as alarms to armed robberies. Other officers patrol the roadways, looking for mobile criminal activity and traffic violations that endanger the safety of other motorists. Each day, these officers conduct numerous traffic stops. Citizens are temporarily detained during these traffic stops of which various offenses have occurred. Each traffic stop can result in a warning, a ticket, searches, and even arrest. How does the officer determine which action to take? Are Caucasian, African American, or Hispanic citizens subjected to a different level of treatment in regards to police contacts? Does the final result of the contact vary depending on the race of the driver? Police officers are given the power of discretion in dealing with different situations in the line of duty. Withrow (2004a) states that an officerís application of discretion can depend on the context of a situation. The theory of contextual attentiveness, states that officers use their knowledge of what is inconsistent and act accordingly to that knowledge. An officer notices something that is inconsistent and acts to investigate the inconsistency. Officers learn that the investigations of inconsistencies lead to arrests, information, or interruption of criminal activities. Each year Missouri state law requires law enforcement agencies to report information on each traffic stop conducted, including demographics about the citizen detained. The information on the traffic stops are reported to the Missouri Attorney Generals office and analyzed. In the state of Missouri, it was reported that 1,360,814 traffic stops were conducted in 2003, by 725 law enforcement agencies. Racial profiling of minority groups by police is a criticism of law enforcement throughout the county. There is no universally accepted definition for racial profiling, instead many definitions racial profiling exists. The Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies defines racial profiling as interdiction, detention, arrest, or other nonconsensual treatment of an individual because of a characteristic or status (CALEA, 1999, as cited in Rojek, Rosenfeld, & Decker,2004). Rojek et al. (2004) study of Missouri traffic stops measured racial profiling using the term disparity, meaning adverse treatment of members of certain groups in the absence of evidence that such treatment is warranted or deserved. The study found that black and Hispanic citizens in Missouri were more than twice as likely to be searched and arrested than white citizens. Withrow (2004b) studied the traffic stops of Wichita, Kansas to determine if the percent of the population of each race of citizen correlated with percent of that citizenís involvement with police practices. The Wichita Stop Study found that African American citizens were stopped at a higher rate than non-African American, and that the African American and Hispanic citizens were more likely to be searched than non-African American and non-Hispanics. Other researches have found similar data in the study of law enforcement throughout the country. The data provided for the studies is limited to the citizens that are noticed and detained by the police. The information law enforcement officers submit is limited to demographic information and information about reason for the traffic stop. There is no record of how many citizens are not stopped for the same violations of the law.The purpose of the research is to analyze the traffic stop data reported by Missouri law enforcement to find a correlation between race of the citizen and the results of the traffic stop; ticket or warning. The study will research the difference in correlations between communities with a lower minority population and communities with a higher minority population.


METHOD

PARTICIPANTS
The participants in the study include data from 60 Missouri police departments. The 60 departments were systematically selected from the 725-law enforcement agencies that reported data to the Missouri Attorneyís Generalís in 2003. The agencies were selected by eliminating certain departments from the master list. The agencies that were not city police were omitted, including: Sheriff Departments, Highway Patrol, University Police, Airport Police, and Park Rangers. After the removal of non-city police agencies every eighth police department was selected to be in the study.

MATERIALS
The data from the 60 police departments retrieved from the Missouri Attorney Generalís website (see Figure 1).

PROCEDURE
The data pertaining to Caucasian, African American and Hispanic citizens were used for the study. The independent variables included: the population of the city and the local population Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic citizens. Dependant variables included: number of traffic stops per each racial group, number of citations per each racial group, number of warnings per each racial group. Multiple regression analysis was preformed to determine the relationship between the race of the citizen and the results of the traffic stop and if the relationships vary in cities with high and low minority populations.


RESULTS
A multiple linear regression was calculated to predict percent of stops resulting in citation based on the population of the community, percent of minorities in the community, and the race of the citizen: Caucasian, African American or Hispanic. A significant regression equation was found only for the population of the community (F(1,161)=5.257, p=.023), with an R≤ of .032. Percent of citations is equal to 51.117+.00004405(population of the community). The other variables were not significant predictors of traffic stop results. Although the results were not significant, African Americans had a lower mean of citations (M=49.0790, s=32.80791), than Hispanics (M=51.4255, s=4.25) and Caucasians (M=56.1637, s=25.22304). African Americans had a higher mean of warnings (M=47.3520, s=30.86357), than Hispanics (M=42.5741, s=29.94393) and Caucasians (M=41.3718, s=24.37005). See Figure 2 for a representation of the means for citations and warnings for African Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians.


DISCUSSION
In this study there was no significant relationship between the race of the citizen and the results of the traffic stop. In cities with a larger population, a citizen is more likely to receive a citation when a law enforcement officer stops them, than in a city with a smaller population. Although non-significant, the data revealed that African Americans stopped were less likely to receive a citation and more likely to receive a warning than Caucasian or Hispanic citizens. The results of the study did not support the findings of Withrow (2004b). Withrow (2004b) reported that black citizens were stopped at a higher rate than non-blacks. The data revealed that race was not a significant predictor of the traffic stop result. This study was limited by the number of departments used only being 60 of the 725 departments that reported data to the Missouri Attorney Generalís office. The analysis was limited by not being able to acquire the raw data from departments to analyze for further correlations. For further research on profiling by police officers, research could be expanded to study gender profiling. The data collected by the Missouri Attorney Generalís Office reports the number of male and female stops, but does not provide a breakdown of males and females citations, warnings, or arrests. The raw data for selected departments could be analyzed to see if there is a relationship between gender and the traffic stop result.


REFERENCES
Missouri Attorney Generalís Office. (2004, December). 2003 Racial profiling report. Retrieved March 9, 2005, from http://www.ago.state.mo.us/racialprofiling/racialprofiling.htmRojek, J., Rosenfeld, R., & Decker, S. (2004). The influence of driverís race on traffic stops in Missouri. Police Quarterly, 7, 126-148.Withrow, B.L. (2004). Driving while different: A potential theoretical explanation for race-based policing. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 15, 344-365.Withrow, B.L. (2004). Race-based policing: A descriptive analysis of the Wichita stop study. Police Practice & Research, 5, 223-241.


FIGURE CAPTIONS
Figure 1. Sample of data reported by a Missouri police department, obtained from the Missouri Attorney Generalís Office.Figure 2. Means citation and warning percent of Caucasian, African American or Hispanic citizens.


Figure 1


Figure 2

Submitted 4/27/2005 8:38:29 PM
Last Edited 4/27/2005 8:51:13 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

Rated by 0 users. Users who logon can rate manuscripts and write reviews.

© 2017 National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse. All rights reserved. The National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse is not responsible for the content posted on this site. If you discover material that violates copyright law, please notify the administrator. This site receives money through the Google AdSense program when users are directed to useful commercial sites. We do not encourage or condone clicking on the displayed ads unless you have a legitimate interest in the advertisement.