Posted on April 20, 2009

Search and Seizure, Racial Profiling, and Traffic Stops: A Disparate Impact Framework

J. Mitchell Pickerill, Clayton Mosher, Travis Pratt, Journal of Law & Policy, January 2009


In response to nationwide attention to the issue of racial profiling, numerous law enforcement agencies have reexamined their policies and collected data on the racial demographics of motorists stopped and searched by police. This article advocates a disparate impact framework for understanding the relationship between race and searches and seizures. Using data on the Washington State Patrol, analysis indicates that disparities in the proportions of racial minorities searched by the Patrol are likely not the result of intentional or purposeful discrimination. Additionally, factors such as age, sex, time of day, and the number of violations that motivated the stop affect the likelihood of a search.

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