Stephanie Seguino is a professor of economics at UVM. She has been researching roadside stop data in Vermont for over ten years.
“Moving forward we all have to own this problem of racism, said Seguino. “The big challenge is that Vermonters don’t think we have that problem, so I think the data helps us that we too have breathed this air.”
In 2014 the Vermont legislature passed a law requiring every police agency to collect traffic stop data including the driver’s race. Since 2014 Seguino and her colleague from Cornell University found racial disparities across the state from their research.
“What we found in most towns was that blacks were over-stopped relative to their share of the driving population and Asians and whites were under-stopped,” said Seguino.
Seguino also used the data to research arrest rates and search rates. She said African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested subsequent to a stop. Her analysis also showed that the probability of being searched is three to four, or even six times greater than whites.
Director of Fair and Impartial Policing for the Vermont State Police Capt. Garry Scott said VSP has been collecting data before it was required. On Thursday, he said they are one of the only state police agencies in the country that has a Director of Fair and Impartial Policing. Vermont State Police also has a Fair and Impartial Committee. Vermont State Police told Local 22/44 that their efforts include building relationship of trust with communities of color and minority communities. VSP also said they look to diversify the workplace and improve cultural awareness.
“We fully recognize that there are institutional systemic problems that we need to address with our membership, and we have tried a variety of those things,” said Capt. Scott.
Scott said the data does not account for all aspect of policing.
“It’s just one piece and we would rather hear from the NAACP about what they are hearing in those communities and working with those members and then we design training curriculum,” said Scott.
While Vermont State Police does use their data, Seguino said that is not the case for some local law enforcement agencies around the state.
“I can only think of two police departments that regularly use these data as a management tool,” said Seguino.
For more information on the study and policing, click here.