Racial Profiling: Limited Data Available on Motorist Stops: GGD-00-41

March 2000
GAO Reports;3/13/2000, p1
Government Document
Available analyses of racial profiling of motorists by law enforcement--that is, using race as a key factor in deciding whether to make a traffic stop--are limited to five quantitative analyses that contain methodological limitations. These analyses provide no conclusive empirical data to determine the extent to which racial profiling may occur. However, the cumulative results of the analyses indicate that, in relation to the populations to which they were compared, African American motorists, and minority motorists in general, were more likely than whites to be stopped on the roadways studied. Because of methodological weaknesses in the existing analyses, GAO cannot determine whether the rate at which African Americans or other minorities are stopped is disproportionate to the rate at which they commit violations that put them at risk of being stopped. GAO believes that more and better research should be done on the racial characteristics of persons who commit the types of violations that may result in stops. So far, little empirical information exists at the federal, state, or local levels to provide a clear picture of the existence or prevalence of racial profiling. Data collection efforts that are planned or under way should provide more data in the next several years to help shed light on this issue.


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