The traffic stop experience: an assessment of frequency and duration among citizen groups




Wade, Taylor Christian

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Police-citizen interactions across the country have received a significant amount of attention due to perceived disparate treatment occurring among citizen groups. Officer discretion is the alleged root of differential treatment among citizen groups and this study unpacks police-citizen interactions by examining traffic stop rates and duration of those traffic stops. The central goal of this study is to examine whether rates of traffic stops vary by citizen race/ethnicity, whether citizen race/ethnicity is related to the length of a traffic stop, and whether these relationships vary depending on officer characteristics. The current study uses officer recorded traffic stop data from a southwestern law enforcement agency in 2009. Analyses of traffic stop rates use the blind enforcement benchmark and are conducted using chi-square tests. Longer stop duration is assessed using multivariate logistic regression models to identify correlating characteristics. Findings indicate a higher percentage of drivers stopped during the daytime were White compared to during the nighttime. Conversely, a higher percentage of drivers stopped during the nighttime were Black and Hispanic compared to during the daytime. Results also indicate Black and Hispanic citizens experience longer traffic stops compared to White citizens. Finally, this pattern of results appears to be relatively consistent regardless of the officer, with a few minor exceptions. The current study offers theoretical explanations for the observed outcomes, identifies study limitations, and presents suggestions for policy and future research.


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Citizen Groups, Duration, Frequency, Minority, Race/Ethnicity, Traffic Stops



Criminal Justice