Vermont police chiefs want independent study of race and traffic stops

Local News

The president of the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police is calling on lawmakers to fund an independent study of racial bias in traffic stops.

Hinesburg Chief Frank Koss, who is president of the VACP, said the existing data on traffic stops involving people of color is “flawed’ and contradictory. Koss said Wednesday that the legislature needs accurate information become proposing any changes in policy. He wants

“We’re not saying everything is perfect, we’re not saying law enforcement is perfect,” Koss said. “We also think the legislature should have that information before they make decisions on that, just to have the accurate information. 

A 2017 report on racial bias in traffic stops co-authored by a UVM professor found that black and Hispanic drivers in Vemront are more likely to be ticketed than whote drivers. The study, ‘Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont,’ also found that the arrest rate for black drivers was nearly twice that of white drivers.

Koss pointed to a more recent study by the Montpelier nonprofit Crime Research Group thaty he says reached a different conclusion. He said that suggests the 2017 study was riddled with “data issues” and “incorrect methodology.”

“All we want is a report that is unbiased and we’ll deal with those results,” he said.

Representative Kevin ‘Coach’ Christie of Hartford says the data available now is limited, which in itself makes it conflicting.

“Until we have data and a good understanding of where the problem is in the different localities, we’re not going to be able to address it,” he said.

He says funding for such a study is possible.

“Sometimes it isn’t always about new money, sometimes it’s about redirecting something that you already have,” he said.

In the meantime, Koss says he’d accept the results of an independent study.

“When an independent comes out and says there is an issue, we’ll be the first ones to jump on that issue,” he said.

Both of the studies came after the legislature passed Act 193 which requires law enforcement officers to document the race of drivers in all traffic stops.

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