Northeastern releases preliminary results of Massachusetts racial and gender profiling study

01/21/04

Report geared to educate communities about traffic citations

BOSTON, Mass. The Northeastern University Institute for Race and Justice released the preliminary results of the Massachusetts Racial and Gender Profiling Project at a meeting this evening. The report presents two years worth of data on traffic citation and search activity for approximately 350 municipal jurisdictions, including the Massachusetts State Police and Boston Police. The data presented in this preliminary report offers the first opportunity for police departments and community members to review official tabulation of traffic enforcement practices in their jurisdiction.

The study, funded by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety, was commissioned after the state legislature passed an act requiring all law enforcement officials in the Commonwealth to begin collecting data to assess the existence of racial and gender profiling with the overall aim of eliminating any instances of profiling in the state and, if instances of racially disparate traffic enforcement practices were discovered, to begin programs and measures to eradicate the practice. The data examined more than 1.5 million traffic citations between April 1, 2001 and June 30, 2003.

"It is important to note that goal of this preliminary report is to provide information to communities about traffic citations that have occurred in this particular time period," said Northeastern University Institute on Race and Justice Director Jack McDevitt. "The aggregate data such as that which is presented in this preliminary report does not imply an indication of racial profiling because social science cannot provide reliable explanations for what individual police officers were thinking when they decided to stop or cite a particular driver. This preliminary report can serve to indicate patterns of disparate traffic citation activity but cannot identify the motives behind such citations. This report should serve as a springboard for conversation about traffic enforcement practices between local police and members of their community. We will issue a final report on this topic with more specific data in March."

"While this is just a preliminary report, I think there is some data that we can take from it that is encouraging as well as informative," said Executive Office of Public Safety Secretary Edward A. Flynn. "This report sets the stage for conversation at the community level among law enforcement and citizens. The two largest law enforcement agencies in the state, the Massachusetts State Police and the Boston Police Department have already taken action to work toward ensuring that any disparity that exists is not due to bias. Our State Police are unmatched in their rigorous enforcement of traffic laws, without regard to the gender or race of the individual>"

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