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Massachusetts Racial and Gender Profiling Final Report

Page 2 of 5 -- In addition to examining the experiences of non-white drivers as a group, we have conducted additional analysis on each of the above four questions to determine if particular racial groups (Black or Hispanic drivers) or certain race and gender groups (non-white males) are disproportionately cited and/or searched. For example the measure of citations issued to community residents includes an examination of: 1) citations issued to non-white residents, 2) citations issued to Black residents, 3) citations issued to Hispanic residents, and 4) citations issued to non-white male residents. These subcategories are included to help departments focus their efforts toward the particular groups that are identified as having the greatest disparities.

In all research on racial disparities in traffic enforcement, one of the most challenging issues defining an appropriate benchmark, or baseline, against which to compare the demographics of traffic citations. If for example, 15% of the citations in a particular community are given to Black residents, is that too many or too few? To answer that question we would want to know the proportion of traffic stops compared to an appropriate benchmark or base rate of those driving in that community. In Massachusetts the present study utilized two measures to determine the degree of disparity that exists in traffic citations across the state. First we compare the racial demographics of town residents who are cited against the residential population of that community. Second we compare the racial demographics of all traffic citations made by an agency (both citations of residents and citations of non-residents) to an estimate of the demographics of the driving population for that community. This approach, while more complex, utilizes the most reliable available comparison for each disparity measure. No external benchmark is needed to answer the final two questions about racially disparate treatment searches and written warnings. Instead, a measure of statistical significance is used to determine if non-white drivers are more likely than white drivers to be subject to a search or issued a written warning.

Community and law enforcement feedback in analysis process

During the analysis of the data for this report the Northeastern University team has been extremely fortunate to have worked with a dedicated group of police officials, community representatives and representatives of advocacy groups, legislators and representatives from the Executive Office of Public Safety and the Office of the Attorney General. This working group met monthly during the analysis process and provided extremely helpful advice and comment, all of which has made this report stronger.

Also, with support from the Executive Office of Public Safety, Northeastern University implemented the most comprehensive comment process that has ever been conducted nationally in conjunction with a racial profiling report. Over the three month period between January and March of 2004, Northeastern led six regional community meetings and actively solicited feedback from community members and law enforcement about their reactions to the findings presented in a preliminary report which was released in January 2004. Many of the comments from law enforcement officials and community members have been integrated into the final report, allowing us to address many of the problems or limitations of the study which may not have been identified without such an extensive comment period.   Continued...

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