Study: No intentional racial bias in WSP traffic stops

December 3, 2021 GMT

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — A study from Washington State University found no intentional racial bias in traffic stops by the Washington State Patrol, however it noted disparities in traffic stops involving Black and Hispanic drivers.

KOMO reports the study conducted by WSU’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services analyzed more than 7 million contacts with state patrol troopers over five years. The 10-person research team compared stops with census data, the statewide driving population, and other measures.

They say from this data, they found no evidence of intentional, agency-level racial bias.

Researchers say that traffic data shows that white motorists were stopped at nearly the same rate statewide as their proportion of the population.

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They did find that Black motorists are stopped more often compared to their statewide population but say that the ratio has decreased each year.

Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic drivers were stopped at lower rates compared to their populations.

Researchers say in Benton County, Hispanic drivers were stopped at a higher rate and Black drivers were stopped at a higher rate in King and Pierce counties.

The researchers will work with WSP to better understand apparent disparities for Black and Hispanic drivers. They also say they plan to conduct focus groups with community members to learn about their experiences with WSP.

“We appreciate and respect the findings from WSU’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “They are recognized nationally and internationally as impartial and thorough academic professionals, and their findings are both trusted and instructive.”