Police: New traffic data doesn’t prove racial bias in Vermont

New traffic data compiled by a local activist group shows more Hispanic and black drivers are getting tickets in Vermont, but police maintain that motorists are getting pulled over for their actions, not their race.

The new database posted at JusticeForAll-VT includes over 700,000 traffic stops between 2010 to 2018. Racial justice activists say it shows black and Hispanics are more likely than whites to get pulled over.

The calls for data collection regarding traffic stops and race largely stemmed from a UVM study called “Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont,” which investigated police racial bias. The study, released in January 2017 by economics professor Stephanie Sequino, alleged that police are pulling over minorities at a rate disproportional to the general population.

Wikimedia Commons/Erum Patel

STOPPED AT RANDOM?: Police say they pull over motorists because they are doing something wrong, but social justice activists suspect that racism could be involved.

The new data posted at JusticeForAll is searchable by each department. So far, not all departments have shared data. The collection is the result of the 2014 mandate Act 193.

“Vermont Act 193, 2014 requires all law enforcement agencies to collect traffic stop race, gender and age data,” the Justice for All webpage states. “The location of data from by the 79 agencies is largely unknown and the data are incomplete, inconsistent and fails the essence of the purpose of the law. The purpose of the data collection was to address what we know to be systemic racism.”

It continues that the purpose of the collection is to allow communities to see how their department is pulling over and issuing tickets. Ultimately, the activist group believes in “holding law enforcement accountable” for disproportionate stops and searches.

The collection is called the Statewide Race Traffic Stop Data Dashboard.

State Rep. Selene Colburn, P-Burlington, wants to expand data collection throughout the criminal justice system. Her bill, H.284, would require the Departments of Judiciary, Department of Corrections, and state attorneys to share demographics.

Robin Joy, director of the Crime Research Center based in Montpelier, told True North that there are problems with collecting and analyzing the demographics of ticketing data.

“One thing that we learned is a lot of times police departments, when they make an arrest for a DUI as a result of a traffic stop, they aren’t filling out the ticket as a stop,” she said.

Joy said police are now being encouraged to fill out all the data, but the implementation still isn’t perfect.

Another problem, according to Joy, is duplications.

“If I get pulled over and I get a ticket for driving with a suspended license or whatever, and I get a ticket for speeding, I’m recorded twice, and it looks like it’s two stops,” she said.

Yet another issue is state police are trained to only count contraband found on the driver as a traffic violation; if it’s found on someone else, that it’s recorded differently.

city of Barre

Timothy Bombardier, Barre chief of police

Barre Police Chief Tim Bombardier told True North the data needs to be thoroughly understood before conclusions are made.

“If you really want to be fair to everyone involved, you have to drill down into the tickets,” he said. ” … Face value is a good start, but when face value makes you question something, you need to really drill down into those tickets and see what’s going on.”

For example, Bombardier said motor vehicle stops are always going to be fewer than tickets issued, which results in the duplicates issue.

“That’s gonna skew your numbers, but technically that’s just one motor vehicle stop,” he said.

Bombardier added that certain people in town might already have a reputation with the police, for example, of not having a license. Every time an officer sees that person driving, he or she is going to get pulled over. This also skews the numbers.

“These are people of all races, all nationalities, and all color,” he said. “These people get more tickets because the officers know them.”

He said if someone really wants to catch racial bias in ticketing, first thing is to see if the tickets issued in the daytime are a consistent demographic with the tickets issued at night, when it’s nearly impossible to see who’s driving.

“Unless you are downtown with all the street lights on, you can’t tell who’s driving,” he said.

Winhall Police Chief Jeff Whitesell says that in a state with about a 2 percent minority population and lots of tourism and non-Vermonters visiting or passing through, folks should be hesitant to draw conclusions.

“I don’t think it is a fair and accurate way of determining if our stops have any kind of race-basis,” he said.

Whitesell said it’s particularly off base when it comes to pulling people over who are suspected of more serious crimes, such as transporting drugs from out of state. Data from such stops is unlikely to represent Vermont.

“We don’t have any control over what race, color or creed is dealing with drugs,” he said. “These folks are coming from major metropolitan areas.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Public domain, Wikimedia Commons/Erum Patel and city of Barre

11 thoughts on “Police: New traffic data doesn’t prove racial bias in Vermont

  1. Well, well, well, there’s another myth shot to pieces. Wonder what will happen to that commission charged with determining the level of police targeting minorities? Once again the do gooders dream up a cause without any data to support their claims.

  2. Don’t want a ticket? Don’t break the law and yes, you will get pulled over for a broken tail light so keep your car fixed.

  3. I would like to bring up the fact that police officers obviously harbor an unwarranted level of hatred for young people between the ages of 16 and 25 as they are pulled over and ticketed at rates far higher than that of folks between the ages of 60 and 70. It is inconceiveable that young people are commiting more traffic violations than older people so it stands to reason that cops must hate youth, right? I see the same disturbing trend with shoplifting, burglary, robbery, rape and assault. You know damned well that the elderly commit just as many property and violent crimes as young people so why the disparity in arrest records? This must not be allowed to continue!!!

    • That is awesome, they are extremely ageist! Too funny. Of course none of these comments would see the light of day on Vermont Digger, like their line says…In pursuit of the truth, they only need to look in their pile of deleted comments, they’ll fing the truth their.

  4. Illegals are coming across the northern borders in increasing numbers.They look different than WASPS. Not suppose to stop them? This was in a TNR article. Police had roadblocks (lights flashing on I-91 south bound lanes below the I-89 intersection near the rest stop.

    Wish they had them again..

  5. Just more overbearing government expanding itself to find problems that don’t exist…
    It’s whats wrong with this state.. has been since the 70’s….
    The findings should be the end of the program but Won’t ’cause VT government has never
    shrunk, once started a program becomes a career.

  6. The solution is that if only 2% are “of color” or whatever the new pretty words are, If you as an “of color” get pulled over, then the police must pull over 98 White folks before another “of color” can be pulled over.

    Fair and even, zero discrimination

  7. Well, isn’t this officer a breath of fresh air and commons sense.

    Let’s also bring up the difference between men and women, not to start yet another fictitious war between men and women, but to show, perhaps, there is a huge disparity between traffic tickets.

    So one would have to ask the question, are the police more sexist than racist? Or might men be committing more vehicle stops because we love driving fast?

    The socialist, aka progressive, aka sjw, aka New World Order part of the Democratic party is not interested in bringing people together. They are the organizers that present stupid statistics as fact in order to divide Vermonters and create hate. They are very good at it too, look at how Dems, and Repubs in Vermont can’t come together.

    American loving Democrats and Conservative (NOT RINO) are the key to bringing Vermont together and healing our State. It’s also the key to healing the nation.

    It’s time for Vermont to shed it’s socialist shackles and set sail for a more prosperous, loving journey.

  8. Here go playing the race card, where do these fools come from, apparently not from VT

    Yeah, police are just sitting around looking for the ” Skin Color ” of people driving, give
    me a break….Idiots.

    So if you don’t follow the rules of the road, you know maybe speeding, running stoplights,
    Etc, Etc, you’re probably going to get pulled over and “TS ” if you’re a person of Color, yup
    laws apply for you also.

    Respect the laws and its Officers, and you won’t be in trouble……pretty simple !!


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