Posted on June 20, 2017

Black and Latino Drivers are Searched Based on Less Evidence and are More Likely to Be Arrested, Stanford Researchers Find

Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2017


Stanford researchers said Monday they have found evidence that black and Latino drivers face a double standard and that police require far less suspicion to search them than their white counterparts.

The finding is based on analysis of more than 60 million state police stops in 20 states between 2011 and 2015.


Researchers from Stanford’s Computational Journalism Lab and the School of Engineering found that black drivers are generally stopped at a higher rate than white motorists, and Latinos are stopped at a similar or lower rate than whites, after adjusting for age, gender, time and location.

After being stopped, black and Latino drivers are ticketed, searched and arrested more often than whites. For example, when pulled over for speeding, black drivers are 20% more likely than whites and Latino drivers 30% more likely than whites to be ticketed. Black and Latino drivers are about twice as likely to be searched compared with whites.


The study found that in Los Angeles County, black drivers are stopped more than whites and Latinos.

For every 100 black drivers, about 15 were pulled over, compared with 10 stops for every 100 white and Latino driver. Black drivers in the county were searched six times per 100 stops; the rate for Latinos was four searches per 100 stops and for whites, two searches per 100 stops.

But researchers noted such disparities alone do not automatically indicate racial bias, but rather could reflect differences in driving behavior and other factors.

So the Stanford group sought to refine their analysis with a test that seeks to answer the question: What level of suspicion must an officer have to search and how does this threshold of suspicion relate to the race or ethnicity of the driver?

Their answer was that blacks and Latinos are searched on the basis of far less evidence than whites.