To the Editor:
Here are some things to think about when you see someone commenting on police traffic stops. There’s not enough room here for great detail, so follow the advice at the end to learn more from true policing experts.
Traffic stops are based on behaviors of drivers and observable violations: speeding, unauthorized plates, etc. Teletypes from other agencies looking for wanted persons and stolen vehicles are also a basis for stops (these give descriptions with distinguishing characteristics, although it can be more difficult to see what people look like due to time of day and weather conditions).
Cops go where the problems are. You will see cruisers in school zones in the morning and afternoon, high crash areas during rush hours, around bar areas late at night, and near thieving and vandalism areas overnight.
Last summer Bowling Green State University Faculty Senate decreed “Public records corroborate that People of Color in Bowling Green are subject to traffic stops at rates disproportionately high compared to their population.”
This claimed the percentage of traffic stops involving Black drivers is higher than the percentage of Black Bowling Green residents according to the U.S. Census. The residential population and driving population are two different entities. One is stationary people living in a specific area, including non-drivers. One is only drivers and includes people from other cities, states, and countries, along with local residents. Someone would need to know the composition of the driving public to know how that compares with traffic stops.
This very comparison was done in 2001 in New Jersey. Black residents were 13.7% of the New Jersey population in 2000. The project found Black drivers comprised 16% of turnpike drivers, 23% of the drivers troopers stopped for speed, and 25% of all speeders. Those researchers stood by their study despite intense political attacks. Those who solely use the residential racial composition of an area as the measuring stick to judge the driving demographic of traffic violations are either ignorant of how to conduct such a study or are deliberately bearing false witness.
If you want to know more about police work, ask any cop. Be they on duty, off duty, retired or departed in good standing, they are your best source. I’m a street cop with 25 years experience. We know more about our profession than anyone who reads selectively about it.