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Testing for Racial Profiling With the Veil-of-Darkness Method

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Police in many cities are accused of racial discrimination in making traffic stops.  The issue is a difficult one to study empirically.  The simplistic comparison of stop rates with population is obviously wrong, because we know that violation rates are not uniform.  The obvious wrongness does not stop professional offense-takers from making the comparison, of course.

The title of this post is the title of an article in Police Quarterly.  The researchers compared stop rates in daytime with those at night, when it is more difficult for an officer to see the race of the driver before making the stop.  The result:  no difference.

Citation and abstract follow the jump.
Robert E. Worden, Sarah J. McLean, & Andrew P. Wheeler (2012) Testing for Racial Profiling With the Veil-of-Darkness Method, Police Quarterly, 15(1), pp. 92-111.

Abstract:  The "veil-of-darkness" method is an innovative and low-cost approach that circumvents many of the benchmarking issues that arise in testing for racial profiling. Changes in natural lighting are used to establish a presumptively more race-neutral benchmark on the assumption that after dark, police suffer an impaired ability to detect motorists' race. Applying the veil-of-darkness method to vehicle stops by the Syracuse (NY) police between 2006 and 2009 and examining differences among officers assigned to specialized traffic units and crime-suppression units, the study found that African-Americans were no more likely to be stopped during daylight than during darkness, indicating no racial bias.

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Wasn't there a study of NJ state troopers about a decade ago which showed that there wasn't any bias either?

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