Study on police behavior during traffic and street stops
Frequently, in criminal and juvenile court, defense attorneys challenge the decision that law enforcement had probable cause to stop and search persons who are in their cars or on the street. Recently, the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics released a study regarding the frequency of such stops and the impressions of the persons who had contact with the police.
The study found that in 2011, 62.9 million United States residents who were 16 years old or older had at least one contact with law enforcement. Approximately half of those contacts were initiated by the police. The study found that 86 per cent of those involved in traffic stops believed the police had behaved properly compared to 66 per cent of those involved in street stops. In other words, persons involved in street stops were less likely to believe that the police behaved properly.
Additionally, the study also found that black drivers were more likely to be stopped by the police than white or Hispanic persons. Three per cent of the drivers stopped were searched. More male drivers were searched than females and more blacks and Hispanics than whites. Six per cent of the drivers stopped stated that the police either verbally or physically exerted force.
The data found in the study is useful in that it provides a nation-wide snapshot of police behavior. The statistics may or may not hold true for a particular jurisdiction.
“Police Behavior During Traffic and Street Stops, 2011” may be found at https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/pbtss11.pdf
Lori G. Levin
Attorney at Law
180 N. LaSalle, Suite 3700
Chicago, IL 60601