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Report to the State of Maryland on Law Eligible Traffic Stops
Maryland Statistical Analysis Center,
Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention

September 1, 2007
In 2001, the Maryland General Assembly passed TR 25-113. The statute, which requires data collection on every law eligible traffic stop in Maryland, aims to provide information about the pervasiveness of racial profiling. Since 2002, Maryland law enforcement agencies have collected and reported traffic stop data according to the legislation.

Specifically, TR 25-113 required the Maryland Police Training Commission (PCTC), in consultation with the Maryland Justice Analysis Center (MJAC) , to develop four guiding documents. The documents include: 1) a model recording and reporting format; 2) a model policy for law enforcement agencies to address ethnicity-based traffic stops; 3) guidelines for law enforcement agencies to manage, counsel, and train officers who collect traffic stop data; and 4) a model log to record traffic stop data. Appendix A contains the model recording and reporting format. In addition, Appendix B contains the PCTC-approved model policy. Appendix C contains the guidelines for management, counseling, and training. However, the guidelines acknowledge multiple methods of data collection and reporting; therefore, agencies adapted different versions of the guidelines. Lastly, Appendix D includes the model log. It should be noted, although TR 25-113 mandates State funding for data collection and analysis, neither law enforcement agencies nor MJAC received funding for traffic stop data reporting.

The 2007 report presents aggregate data on all law eligible stops in Maryland that law enforcement agencies reported to MSAC for the 2006 fiscal year. For the current reporting period, 123 agencies were eligible to report; 111 agencies reported the data required by TR 25-113. Data were excluded if the agency failed to submit data or if researchers were unable to merge the data due to reporting errors. MSAC did not audit or test the data, except for the purpose of internal consistency.

The current report evaluates whether law eligible traffic stops among non-Caucasian drivers differ from stops among Caucasian drivers. To begin, law eligible traffic stops are defined as all stops made by law enforcement agencies that are eligible to issue traffic violations. However, TR 25-113 excludes traffic stops that result from checkpoints or roadblocks, stops of multiple vehicles after an accident or emergency, and the use of radar, laser, or vascar technology. Such stops are excluded because officer discretion is unlikely to play a role in the stop. Researchers evaluated driver ethnicity according to the officer’s observations and MVA data officers consulted at the time of the stop. The report refers to ethnicity as Caucasian or races other than Caucasian. For purposes of this research, Caucasian refers to individuals that were reported by officers and/or MVA as White, Arab, Caucasian, and Asiatic Islander; the races other than Caucasian category collapses multiple ethnicities that are impossible to compare individually due to categorical disparities between Maryland Department of Motor Vehicle ethnic data and law enforcement ethnic data under TR 25-113. Specifically, tables 3-33 refer to Maryland licensed driver data to compare the Caucasian and races other than Caucasian sub-populations of stopped drivers to the broader population of individuals who drive in Maryland.

As noted, tables 3-33 in Appendix E present detailed data on the similarities and differences among the numbers and characteristics of stops and stop outcomes between Caucasian and races other than Caucasian sub-populations. Overall, Maryland police departments and sheriffs’ offices reported 649,332 law eligible traffic stops for fiscal year 2006, representing 16.67% of licensed drivers in Maryland. In total, the data in table 3 suggest that approximately 50% of law eligible stops in Maryland in 2006 involved races other than Caucasian drivers, who represent an estimated 33% of licensed drivers in Maryland. In addition, table 3 lists the primary reason for each stop, according to the racial and ethnic categories the agencies reported. Each reason refers to the title of the statute that justified the stop, according to the officer. The data show that officers reported similar reasons for stops between the Caucasian and races other than Caucasian sub-populations. The agencies, however, reported “unknown” as the reason for the stop in 16.8% of stops that involved races other than Caucasian drivers and in 11.4% of stops that involved Caucasian drivers.

In addition, tables 6, 11, 18, and 27 illustrate results concerning the actions of the officers after traffic stops, according to ethnicity. Specifically, table 6 reports search data, which indicate that searches occur in a small percentage of reported traffic stops (3.6%). The majority of searches (59.4%), however, involved races other than Caucasian drivers. Additionally, table 11 summarizes data concerning the reason for the search. When the officer provided a reason for the search, the majority of searches were incident to arrest (53.1%), for both Caucasian (56.7%) and races other than Caucasian (43.3%). Notably, law enforcement agencies did not provide a reason for search in 61.1% of reported stops. Therefore, the data on searches do not result in any strong conclusions. Table 18 shows the percentage of searches that resulted in seizures of contraband or property. Specifically, officers reported seizures in 38.5% of searches. Seizures followed approximately 34% of searches of Caucasian drivers and approximately 63% of searches of races other than Caucasian drivers. However, in general, the data in table 23 suggest that the most common outcome of a stop is a verbal warning for both Caucasian (47%) and races other than Caucasian (45%). More specifically, drivers whose ethnicity was recorded as “other” are an exception to this rule. In fact, officers issued a citation following 44% of traffic stops in which the officer classified the driver as “other.” Finally, the data in table 27 show arrests for 2.7% of all stops officers reported, with approximately 50% of arrests involving Caucasians. Furthermore, officers cite the same reason for arrest and initial stop in 57% of arrests they report.

Conclusions about the relationship between ethnicity and traffic stops, based on the data contained in this report, should be cautiously interpreted and carefully utilized. The data this report summarizes, and Appendix E provides in detail, cannot indicate definitively whether ethnicity affects the occurrence or characteristics of traffic stops in Maryland. A major obstacle to traffic stop data analysis is the determination of appropriate points of comparison. State and local governments seek to discover whether drivers who exhibit similar behaviors, but are of different ethnicities, are stopped at different rates.

The current method allows the possibility for error by neglecting confounding variables, such as driving behavior and law enforcement deployment. Researchers compared rates of stops, searches, and arrests to Maryland licensed driver data. According to the general population of licensed drivers in Maryland, the data suggest that law enforcement officers stopped drivers who were races other than Caucasian more often than they stopped Caucasian drivers. The apparent trend, however, lacks validity because statewide measures of driving behavior that correlate with ethnicity are unavailable for use as denominators. The use of licensed driver data introduces unknown estimation problems because variables such as rates of car ownership, driving behavior, and law enforcement deployment may differ across sub- populations. Furthermore, licensed driver data excludes out-of-state drivers from the analysis because out- of-state driver population distributions are unavailable. In the future, researchers can reduce the possibility of error by excluding stops of out-of-state drivers from data that agencies report.

In addition, amendments to the statute can increase the value of the data. The statute requires the use of specific ethnic codes; however, the DMV refers to different ethnic categories for licensed driver data. As such, adoption of DMV categories will facilitate traffic stop data analysis in future reports.

Furthermore, the current method does not allow the researchers to verify the accuracy and completeness of data that agencies report. TR 25-113 does not require agencies to supply evidence that the data reflect all eligible stops; nor does the statute mandate a data audit. The General Assembly should consider additional language that allows MSAC to eliminate the volume of missing and inaccurate data. Nonetheless, communication with the agencies in 2007 strongly suggests that the majority of agencies made good faith efforts to record and report on all law eligible stops as completely and accurately as possible.

In sum, the existing guidelines are useful for large and medium-sized law enforcement agencies; however, the non-binding nature of the guidelines reduces the data quality. The data is difficult to merge under the current method because law enforcement agencies use different formats. In the future, the methodology of the report will be amended so the results can more accurately describe the effects of ethnicity on traffic stops, searches, seizures, and arrests. Until TR 25-113 is amended, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) is committed to strengthening communication with law enforcement agencies to ease the collection data and reporting, while improving the quality of data.

By definition, racial profiling refers to the practice of constructing a set of characteristics or behaviors based on race and using that set of characteristics to decide whether an individual might be guilty of some crime. MJAC refers to the Maryland Justice Analysis Center at University of Maryland, which hosted the Maryland Statistical Analysis Center through 2006.

The statute requires the use of the following categories: Asian, Black, White, Hispanic and Other. However, the DMV utilizes the following categories: Black or African American, White, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Other.

The statute requires the use of the following categories: Asian, Black, White, Hispanic and Other. The DMV uses Black or African American, White, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Other. GOCCP incorporated MSAC in 2007, according to Executive Order 01.01.2007.05. Report To The State Of Maryland On Law Eligible Traffic Stops - December 2006

Report To The State Of Maryland On Law Eligible Traffic Stops - September 2005

Report To The State Of Maryland On Law Eligible Traffic Stops - December 2004

Report To The State Of Maryland On Law Eligible Traffic Stops - December 2003 (PDF)

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