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Data Appears to Show Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops

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Data released by the Virginia State Police shows a wide disparity in the rate at which Black drivers are involved in traffic stops when compared to their share of Virginia’s population, while data analysts with VSP and the Department of Criminal Justice Services say there may be other benchmarks to compare the data with.

The Virginia Community Policing Act requires law enforcement to collect seven pieces of data. That includes information about race, ethnicity, age, and the gender of the person who was stopped. Results of the stop, like warnings, citations, or vehicle searches, are also collected.

State police released a tranche of that data Thursday. In a media briefing Friday, Keon Turner, who manages of data analysis and reporting for the state police, said it's important to keep some things in mind: that Covid was at play when the data was collected, and the numbers are continually updated.

But there were some stark disparities when comparing the traffic stop demographics to Virginia at large. 19% of Virginians are Black, but that population makes up 31% of traffic stops and 43% of vehicle searches.

State police have not published their analysis of the data. The Department of Criminal Justice Services said they will release analysis of the data in the coming weeks.

“The primary thing that we're looking at is whether or not there is evidence of bias-based profile in this traffic stop data,” said Jim McDonough. “That's the primary directive that DCJS has, and we have been exploring different methods for doing that.”

On July 1st new data started to be collected too. That includes whether people stopped speak English and whether physical force was used.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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