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Massachusetts Racial and Gender Profiling Final Report

Executive Summary

May 4, 2004

Northeastern University Institute on Race and Justice

The goal of this report is to answer the mandate of Chapter 228 of the Acts of 2000 to identify and provide to the Secretary of Public Safety a listing of state police units or municipalities that appear to have engaged in racial or gender profiling. Using data on traffic citations and written warnings collected by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, this study examines the existence of racial and gender disparities in approximately 1.6 million traffic citations issued between April 1, 2001 and June 30, 2003. The citations analyzed in this report were received from the Massachusetts State Police, 340 municipal police departments and 25 other special police units.

The intent of the Massachusetts legislation was to identify communities with racial or gender disparities which may be suggestive of racial profiling and to require those communities to collect additional information on traffic enforcement to determine if the disparities identified could be explained by factors other than race or gender. This model for dealing with allegations of racial and gender profiling is unique nationally and was intended to minimize the data collection burden on those departments where no indication of racial or gender profiling exists.

It is important to note at the outset that research on racial profiling in traffic enforcement is a relatively new area of inquiry. Although numerous studies have begun to address questions of differential treatment in traffic stops, no absolute consensus exists about the best way to determine disparities. Racial disparities in citations can result from a number of factors that social scientists are just beginning to understand. Bias on the part of an individual officer is only one of several possible explanations for disparities in citations. Although the Massachusetts data does not allow for definitive findings of racial profiling on the part of individual officers or within a department, it does identify those jurisdictions with substantial racial or gender disparities in traffic citations.

Methodology

Although there are limits to the types of questions that traffic citation data can answer, this study addresses four different questions that commonly arise in public concern over racial profiling to determine if racial or gender disparities existed in any of the 366 jurisdictions who submitted data to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

1. Are non-white drivers who are residents in a community cited more often than their representation in the residential population would predict?

2. Are non-white drivers overall cited more often their representation in the population of people driving on the roadways would predict?

3. Once stopped, are non-white drivers more likely to be subject to a search than white drivers?

4. Once stopped, are non-white drivers more likely to receive a citation than white drivers?

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.

Major Findings

The process of drawing conclusions about racial and gender disparities in 366 different law enforcement agencies does not allow for the in-depth analysis that can and should occur in a particular community. This report is intended to highlight the main areas of concern, offer interpretations of different types of disparities and hopefully serve as a springboard for more detailed analysis that can best be done at the community level between local police and members of their community. A summary of the major findings is as follows:

249 law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts have substantial disparities in at least one of the four categories of analysis used in this report (Table A). Breaking down these disparities into the four measurements that were used in the report we find:

-- 141 law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts have racial disparities above the statewide median in citations given to resident drivers who were non-white, Black, Hispanic or non-white males (Table B). Statewide the average disparity between non-white residents cited and non-white residents in the census population was .06% with non-white residents being cited slightly more frequently than their representation in the residential population. Statewide the largest racial difference between citations to residents and residential population was for Black drivers (average disparity of 1.3%) and non-white male drivers (average disparity 2.2%).

-- 201 law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts have racial disparities above the statewide median in citations given to non-white, Black, or Hispanic drivers (Table C). Statewide the average disparity between non-white drivers cited and non-whites in the driving population estimate was 2.6%. Very consistent disparities were found when Black citations (average disparity of 2.3%) and Hispanic citations (average disparity 2.2%) were compared to the driving population estimate.

-- Out of the 87 communities where a sufficient number of searches were conducted for analysis, 40 law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts are statistically significantly more likely to search non-white, Black, Hispanic or non-white male drivers compared to white drivers (Table D). Although searches following a traffic citation are a relatively rare event in Massachusetts (only 1.3% of all traffic citations resulted in a non-inventory search of the motorist or their vehicle statewide), non-white drivers were more likely to be searched following a citation than white drivers (1.3% of white drivers searched compared to 1.8% of non-white drivers).

-- Out of a sample of 142 communities where an analysis of written warnings could be conducted, 83 agencies are statistically significantly more likely to give a citation to a non-white, Black, Hispanic or non-white male driver compared to a white driver (Table E). Statewide 72% of non-white drivers receive citations compared to 65.9% of white drivers. This suggests that in some communities in Massachusetts officers may be more likely to use their discretion to give written warnings to white drivers rather than to non-white drivers.

Overall males were more likely to be cited than their representation in either the residential or the driving population estimate. Males were uniformly more likely to be subject to a search and to be cited than women. These findings were consistent across virtually all communities in Massachusetts. This report finds no indication that female drivers, in the aggregate, are more likely to be stopped, cited or subject to a search than their male counterparts. In fact, quite the opposite appears to be the case.

Issues to Consider

Based on the findings of the Massachusetts study, national research on the issue, and recommendations from the Working Group and other stakeholders we offer the following set of issues to consider which provide guidance to those who must begin to formulate policies based on the findings in this report.

Nationwide over 6,000 law enforcement agencies are collecting data on all traffic stops. Traffic stop data collection has been recommended by numerous national professional police organizations as a necessary component of professional policing. As a part of good police practices, all law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts should establish a system to collect and monitor data on all traffic stop activity.

Following national models for traffic stop data collection, a uniform set of data elements to be collected on all stops should be identified. It is important that any new data collection system include information on officer identification and the location of the stop in the required data collection elements. Additionally a specific timetable for data collection, auditing and reporting should be established.

All local police agencies should begin or continue a conversation with members of their community about the existence of disparities in traffic stops, the goals of traffic enforcement and strategies to monitor and reduce such disparities.

Table A: Any Disparity in the Four Summary Measures (N=249)
Abington
Acushnet
Adams
Amesbury
Amherst
Andover
Aquinnah
Arlington
Ashburnham
Ashby
Ashland
Athol
Attleboro
Auburn
Avon
Ayer
Barnstable
Bedford
Belchertown
Bellingham
Belmont
Berkley
Berlin
Bernardston
Beverly
Billerica
Blackstone
Bolton
Boston
Bourne
Boxborough
Boylston
Braintree
Bridgewater
Brockton
Brookline
Buckland
Cambridge
Canton
Carver
Charlton
Chatham
Chelmsford
Chelsea
Cheshire
Chester
Chicopee
Chilmark
Clarksburg
Clinton
Cohasset
Dartmouth
Dedham
Dennis
Douglas
Dover
Dracut
Dudley
Dunstable
E. Bridgewater
E. Brookfield
E. Longmeadow
Easton
Edgartown
Erving
Everett
Fairhaven
Fall River
Falmouth
Fitchburg
Foxborough
Framingham
Franklin
Freetown
Georgetown
Gill
Gloucester
Goshen
Granby
Granville
Greenfield
Groveland
Hadley
Hampden
Hanson
Harwich
Hatfield
Haverhill
Heath
Hingham
Holbrook
Holden
Holland
Holliston
Holyoke
Hopedale
Hopkinton
Hudson
Hull
Huntington
Ipswich
Kingston
Lakeville
Lancaster
Lanesborough
Lawrence
Lee
Leicester
Lenox
Leominster
Lexington
Lincoln
Littleton
Longmeadow
Lowell
Lunenburg
Lynn
Lynnfield
Malden
Mansfield
Marblehead
Marion
Marlborough
Mashpee
Mattapoisett
Maynard
Medford
Medway
Melrose
Mendon
Merrimac
Methuen
Middleborough
Milford
Millbury
Millis
Millville
Milton
Montague
N. Adams
N. Andover
N. Attleboro
Nahant
Nantucket
Natick
Needham
New Bedford
New Marlborough
New Salem
Newburyport
Newton
Northampton
Northborough
Northbridge
Northfield
Norton
Norwood
Oak Bluffs
Oakham
Orange
Orleans
Palmer
Paxton
Peabody
Pelham
Pepperell
Pittsfield
Plymouth
Quincy
Randolph
Raynham
Rehoboth
Revere
Rochester
Rockland
Rockport
Rowley
Royalston
S. Hadley
Salem
Salisbury
Sandwich
Saugus
Scituate
Seekonk
Sharon
Sherborn
Shirley
Shrewsbury
Shutesbury
Somerset
Somerville
Southborough
Southbridge
Southwick
Spencer
Springfield
State Police
Sterling
Stockbridge
Stoneham
Stoughton
Stow
Sturbridge
Sudbury
Sunderland
Sutton
Swampscott
Taunton
Tewksbury
Tisbury
Topsfield
Townsend
Truro
Tyngsborough
Upton
W. Bridgewater
W. Brookfield
W. Newbury
W. Springfield
W. Tisbury
Wakefield
Walpole
Waltham
Ware
Wareham
Warwick
Watertown
Wayland
Webster
Wellesley
Wellfleet
Wendell
Wenham
Westborough
Westfield
Weston
Westwood
Weymouth
Whitman
Wilbraham
Wilmington
Winchendon
Windsor
Winthrop
Woburn
Worcester
Wrentham
Yarmouth

>

Table B: Resident Citation Disparities (N=141 Above Statewide Positive Median)
Abington
Adams
Amherst
Andover
Arlington
Ashland
Athol
Avon
Barnstable
Belchertown
Berkley
Berlin
Beverly
Boston
Bourne
Boxborough
Braintree
Brockton
Brookline
Buckland
Cambridge
Canton
Chatham
Chelsea
Cheshire
Chicopee
Chilmark
Clarksburg
Clinton
Cohasset
Dedham
Dennis
Dudley
E. Brookfield
Easton
Edgartown
Erving
Everett
Fall River
Falmouth
Fitchburg
Foxborough
Framingham
Georgetown
Gloucester
Greenfield
Hanson
Harwich
Hatfield
Haverhill
Holbrook
Holyoke
Hudson
Ipswich
Kingston
Lancaster
Lawrence
Lee
Leicester
Leominster
Lexington
Littleton
Longmeadow
Lowell
Lynn
Malden
Marion
Marlborough
Mashpee
Mattapoisett
Maynard
Medford
Medway
Mendon
Methuen
Middleborough
Milford
Millbury
Millis
Milton
Montague
N. Adams
Nantucket
Needham
New Bedford
Northampton
Northborough
Northbridge
Northfield
Norton
Norwood
Oak Bluffs
Oakham
Orange
Orleans
Paxton
Peabody
Pelham
Pittsfield
Quincy
Randolph
Raynham
Revere
Rochester
Rockland
Royalston
Salem
Scituate
Sharon
Shrewsbury
Shutesbury
Somerville
Southbridge
Springfield
State Police
Stockbridge
Stoneham
Stoughton
Sunderland
Sutton
Taunton
Tisbury
Townsend
W. Bridgewater
W. Springfield
Waltham
Ware
Wareham
Warwick
Watertown
Wayland
Webster
Wellfleet
Wendell
Westborough
Weymouth
Winchendon
Winthrop
Woburn
Worcester
Yarmouth

Table C: Driving Population Estimate Disparity (N=201 Above Statewide Positive Median)
Abington
Acushnet
Adams
Amherst
Andover
Aquinnah
Arlington
Ashburnham
Ashby
Ashland
Athol
Auburn
Avon
Ayer
Barnstable
Belchertown
Bellingham
Belmont
Berlin
Bernardston
Billerica
Bolton
Boston
Bourne
Boxborough
Boylston
Braintree
Bridgewater
Brockton
Brookline
Cambridge
Canton
Carver
Charlton
Chatham
Chelmsford
Cheshire
Chester
Chicopee
Chilmark
Clinton
Dartmouth
Dedham
Dennis
Douglas
Dover
Dracut
Dudley
Dunstable
E. Bridgewater
E. Brookfield
E. Longmeadow
Easton
Edgartown
Everett
Fairhaven
Falmouth
Fitchburg
Foxborough
Framingham
Freetown
Georgetown
Gill
Goshen
Granby
Granville
Groveland
Hadley
Hampden
Hanson
Harwich
Hatfield
Haverhill
Heath
Hingham
Holbrook
Holden
Holliston
Holyoke
Hopedale
Hopkinton
Hudson
Hull
Huntington
Kingston
Lakeville
Lancaster
Lanesborough
Lawrence
Leicester
Lenox
Leominster
Littleton
Longmeadow
Lowell
Lunenburg
Lynn
Lynnfield
Malden
Marblehead
Marion
Marlborough
Mashpee
Mattapoisett
Maynard
Medford
Medway
Melrose
Mendon
Merrimac
Methuen
Milford
Millbury
Millville
Milton
Montague
N. Adams
N. Andover
Nahant
Nantucket
Natick
Needham
New Bedford
New Marlborough
New Salem
Northborough
Northbridge
Norton
Oak Bluffs
Oakham
Orange
Orleans
Paxton
Peabody
Pepperell
Pittsfield
Quincy
Randolph
Raynham
Rehoboth
Revere
Rochester
Rockport
Rowley
S. Hadley
Salem
Salisbury
Sandwich
Saugus
Seekonk
Sharon
Sherborn
Shirley
Shrewsbury
Shutesbury
Somerville
Southborough
Southbridge
Springfield
State Police
Sterling
Stoughton
Stow
Sturbridge
Sudbury
Sutton
Swampscott
Taunton
Tewksbury
Tisbury
Topsfield
Townsend
Truro
Tyngsborough
Upton
W. Bridgewater
W. Brookfield
W. Newbury
W. Springfield
W. Tisbury
Walpole
Waltham
Ware
Wareham
Warwick
Watertown
Wayland
Webster
Wellesley
Wenham
Westborough
Weston
Westwood
Whitman
Wilbraham
Wilmington
Windsor
Winthrop
Worcester
Wrentham
Yarmouth
Table D: Search Disparities (N=40 Positive Statistically Significant Differences)
Amesbury
Attleboro
Auburn
Barnstable
Bedford
Boston
Bridgewater
Brockton
Brookline
Cambridge
Dunstable
Fairhaven
Fall River
Framingham
Haverhill
Leicester
Lowell
Lynn
Malden
Mansfield
N. Adams
New Bedford
Newton
Northampton
Peabody
Quincy
Salisbury
Southborough
Spencer
Springfield
State Police
Stoughton
Taunton
Tewksbury
Townsend
W. Bridgewater
Waltham
Wareham
Wilmington
Worcester
Table E: Warnings vs. Citations (N=83 Positive Statistically Significant Difference)
Abington
Amesbury
Andover
Arlington
Auburn
Barnstable
Bellingham
Belmont
Berlin
Billerica
Blackstone
Boston
Braintree
Bridgewater
Brookline
Cambridge
Canton
Chelsea
Chicopee
Dedham
Dracut
E. Bridgewater
Everett
Falmouth
Fitchburg
Framingham
Franklin
Holland
Hudson
Lawrence
Leicester
Leominster
Lexington
Lincoln
Longmeadow
Lynn
Marlborough
Mattapoisett
Medway
Methuen
Milford
N. Andover
N. Attleboro
Natick
Needham
New Bedford
Newburyport
Newton
Northampton
Norwood
Palmer
Peabody
Pittsfield
Plymouth
Quincy
Randolph
Revere
Rockland
Shirley
Shrewsbury
Somerset
Somerville
Southborough
Southwick
Springfield
Stoughton
Sturbridge
Sudbury
Truro
Upton
W. Bridgewater
W. Tisbury
Wakefield
Walpole
Waltham
Watertown
Wellesley
Westborough
Westfield
Weston
Weymouth
Worcester
Yarmouth
Table F: Measures of Disparity for All Jurisdictions
Jurisdictions with Any Disparity (N=249)
1. Jurisdictions Above Threshold on All Four Measures (15)
Barnstable
Boston
Brookline
Cambridge
Framingham
Leicester
Lynn
New Bedford
Peabody Quincy
Springfield
Stoughton
West Bridgewater
Waltham
Worcester
2. Jurisdictions Above Threshold on Three Measures (42)
Abington
Andover
Arlington
Auburn
Berlin
Braintree
Bridgewater
Brockton
Canton
Chicopee
Dedham
Everett
Falmouth
Fitchburg
Haverhill
Hudson
Lawrence
Leominster
Longmeadow
Lowell
Malden
Marlborough
Mattapoisett
Medway
Methuen
Milford
N. Adams
Needham
Northampton
Pittsfield
Randolph
Revere
Shrewsbury
Somerville
Southborough
State Police
Taunton
Townsend
Wareham
Watertown
Westborough
Yarmouth
3. Jurisdictions Above Threshold on Two Measures (87)
Adams
Amesbury
Amherst
Ashland
Athol
Avon
Belchertown
Bellingham
Belmont
Billerica
Bourne
Boxborough
Chatham
Chelsea
Cheshire
Chilmark
Clinton
Dennis
Dracut
Dudley
Dunstable
East Bridgewater
East Brookfield
Easton
Edgartown
Fairhaven
Fall River
Foxborough
Georgetown
Hanson
Harwich
Hatfield
Holbrook
Holyoke
Kingston
Lancaster
Lexington
Littleton
Marion
Mashpee
Maynard
Medford
Mendon
Millbury
Milton
Montague
N. Andover
Nantucket
Natick
Newton
Northbridge
Northborough
Norton
Norwood
Oak Bluffs
Oakham
Orange
Orleans
Paxton
Raynham
Rochester
Rockland
Salem
Salisbury
Sharon
Shirley
Shutesbury
Southbridge
Sturbridge
Sudbury
Sutton
Tewksbury
Tisbury
Truro
Upton
West Springfield
West Tisbury
Walpole
Ware
Warwick
Wayland
Webster
Wellesley
Weston
Weymouth
Wilmington
Winthrop
4. Jurisdictions Above Threshold on One Measure (105)
Acushnet
Aquinnah
Ashburnham
Ashby
Attleboro
Ayer
Bedford
Berkley
Bernardston
Beverly
Blackstone
Bolton
Boylston
Buckland
Carver
Charlton
Chelmsford
Chester
Clarksburg
Cohasset
Dartmouth
Douglas
Dover
E. Longmeadow
Erving
Franklin
Freetown
Gill
Gloucester
Goshen
Granby
Granville
Greenfield
Groveland
Hadley
Hampden
Heath
Hingham
Holden
Holland
Holliston
Hopedale
Hopkinton
Hull
Huntington
Ipswich
Lakeville
Lanesborough
Lee
Lenox
Lincoln
Lunenburg
Lynnfield
Mansfield
Marblehead
Melrose
Merrimac
Middleborough
Millis
Millville
N. Attleboro
Nahant
New Marlborough
New Salem
Newburyport
Northfield
Palmer
Pelham
Pepperell
Plymouth
Rehoboth
Rockport
Rowley
Royalston
S. Hadley
Sandwich
Saugus
Scituate
Seekonk
Sherborn
Somerset
Southwick
Spencer
Sterling
Stockbridge
Stoneham
Stow
Sunderland
Swampscott
Topsfield
Tyngsborough
W. Brookfield
W. Newbury
Wakefield
Wellfleet
Wendell
Wenham
Westfield
Westwood
Whitman
Wilbraham
Winchendon
Windsor
Woburn
Wrentham
Jurisdictions with No Disparity (92)
Acton
Agawam
Ashfield
Barre
Becket
Blandford
Boxford
Brewster
Brimfield
Brookfield
Burlington
Carlisle
Charlemont
Chesterfield
Colrain
Concord
Conway
Cummington
Dalton
Danvers
Deerfield
Dighton
Duxbury
Eastham
Easthampton
Egremont
Essex
Gardner
Grafton
Groton
Gt. Barrington
Halifax
Hamilton
Hanover
Hardwick
Harvard
Hinsdale
Hubbardston
Leverett
Leyden
Ludlow
Manchester
Marshfield
Medfield
Middleton
Monroe
Monson
Monterey
N. Brookfield
N. Reading
New Braintree
Newbury
Norwell
Norfolk
Otis
Oxford
Pembroke
Peru
Petersham
Phillipston
Plainfield
Plainville
Plympton
Princeton
Provincetown
Reading
Rowe
Rutland
Sandisfield
Savoy
Sheffield
Shelburne
Southampton
Swansea
Templeton
Tolland
Tyringham
Uxbridge
W. Boylston
W. Stockbridge
Wales
Warren
Washington
Westford
Westhampton
Westminster
Westport
Whately
Williamsburg
Williamstown
Winchester
Worthington
Jurisdictions for Which Disparity Could Not Be Measured (N=25)
AMTRAK
B&M Railroad
Bridgewater SC
Bunker Hill CC
CSX
Environmental PD
Fernald State School
MA Maritime Police
Massasoit CC
MBTA
Metro Police Lwr. Basin
Metro Police Marine
Mt Wachusett CC
Registry of MV
Somerville Housing Auth.
State Fire Marshal
Templeton Dev. Center
Tufts University
Univ Of Mass Amherst
Univ Of Mass Boston
Univ of Mass Datmouth
Univ of Mass Lowell
Univ of Mass Worcester
Westfield SC
Worcester Co. Sheriff

Final Report Prepared by:
Dr. Amy Farrell, Associate Director, Institute on Race and Justice
Dean Jack McDevitt, Director, Institute on Race and Justice
Lisa Bailey, Assistant Director of Community Outreach, Institute on Race and Justice
Carsten Andresen, Research Associate, Center for Criminal Justice Policy Research
Erica Pierce, Research Associate, Center for Criminal Justice Policy Research
The Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern University brings together academics from the College of Criminal Justice, School of Law, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and African American Studies Program to examine questions on race and justice facing urban communities. Our primary goal is to conduct meaningful research in race and justice and provide leadership on issues of racial injustice. The mission of the Institute is founded on the premise that academic institutions can provide rigorous and objective analysis that can be used by members of the community and policy makers to make policy changes that advance the cause of social justice. This research model attempts to enhance scientific inquiries with the input and experiences of community stakeholders who struggle with issues of racial injustice. Combining traditional empirical questions with a community-based problem-solving model of research provides a national model for action-based research in the field of race and justice. For more information about the Institute or the findings in the Massachusetts Racial and Gender Profiling study please visit our website at www.irj.neu.edu. 

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