Racial Disparity in Traffic Stops Report
These reports were requested by Springfield Police Department’s Chief Paul Williams and summarize the results of studies of racial disparities in traffic stops, vehicle searches, driver arrests and contraband hits for the city of Springfield, Missouri. They were first requested on a yearly-basis but in 2012 transitioned to a five-year timeframe.
Mike Stout, Ph.D., Associate Professor and the George Kaiser Family Foundation Chair in Family and Community Policy at Oklahoma State University was the primary investigator on the studies and authored the reports.
Every time an SPD officer stops a driver, they are required to report the details about the stop using an SPD-created Vehicle Stop Racial Profiling (VSRP) form. The VSRP includes 13 required questions from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office as well as an additional 10 questions required by SPD policy. Some of the requested information includes the reason, location, and outcome of the stop, whether or not a search was conducted, driver information (age, race, gender), and if the officer was able to identify the driver’s race prior to the stop. After this information is collected, we submit it to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office where it becomes publicly accessible.
As recommended by the Attorney General, we also take a deeper dive into the numbers internally. After receiving data from officers in the field, we use a nationally-recognized mathematical formula to determine the “binomial probability,” which shows the possibility that racial profiling exists for a specific officer. If any officers are shown to have a potential for bias while conducting traffic stops, we then take a second look at the circumstances surrounding that officer and all their stops. The officer is then interviewed by their direct supervisor, who completes a report documenting their findings, which are reviewed by the officer’s chain of command. Chief Williams reviews all the information and determines if further action (I.e. training, discipline) should be taken.
After the yearly analysis is completed, Chief Williams meets with minority leaders in the community, historically with the Springfield NAACP, to share the results of the review and talk about action steps for moving forward.
SPD, at the request of the NAACP, employed a third-party researcher formerly with Missouri State University to comb through the data and compile reports that summarize the findings pertaining to racial disparities in traffic stops, vehicle searches, driver arrests, and contraband seized. That information is valuable through the links above.
Every step of this process, from our training techniques to our early intervention system, is taken very seriously at the highest levels of the department. We understand our community’s concern and we hope that by opening the lines of communication, we can show our citizens that we are allies and want to UNITE in our efforts to help our community feel safe, and free from bias in police decision making.
At the Springfield Police Department, we take several precautions to ensure that discrimination does not play a role in our traffic stops.
The first proactive set of measures we take to guard against biased-based policing is during the hiring process. Before an individual is ever accepted into the academy, our background investigators check to make sure the candidate does not have a history of behavior that would suggest they have biases that could hinder their decision-making abilities.
If the candidate is accepted into the academy, they will undergo 12 hours of cultural diversity, racial profiling and implicit bias training. Further training continues after the academy and every year all SPD officers receive a minimum of one hour of similar training.
We take our precaution efforts to the next level with an early intervention system which is designed to collect and scrutinize traffic stop data to ensure racially motived behavior does not exist.