So we have the latest data from Stanford University’s Open Policing Project about the correlation between the race of the driver and her probability of being stopped by a police officer in the United States. It’s worthwhile to note that routine traffic stops are the most common form of contact between the public and the police in the US and therefore a very significant parameter in analysing the overall quality of the police-public equation. As per the figures available from The Economist: One in eight drivers was stopped in the year 2011 and on a typical day 50,000 traffic stops occur across American cities.
The data from Stanford’s analysis of 130 million stops between 2011 and 2015 are unambiguous: Black drivers were stopped twice as often as white drivers.
One may ask, how effective were these ‘random’ stops? And this where the police bias becomes evident: The Stanford data reveal that contraband was discovered in only 26% of the cases when the person behind the wheel was black or hispanic as opposed to 32% for white drivers. Not justified at all.
I don’t live in the US and I’m not black but I can feel the anger and the hurt that these drivers; bonafide citizens of the United States, must be experiencing in their own country, just because of the colour of their skin.
Martin Luther King Jr. in his soul stirring speech in August 1963, spoke about his vision of a nation where people would not be “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
America had witnessed a historic moment when it elected its first black President. But I guess it takes more than having a black President in the White House to make the roads fairer for everyone. The sad truth is, on American streets, its citizens are still judged by its Police officers on the basis of the color of their skin and their ethnicity. I guess it’ll be a while before MLK Jr’s dream becomes a reality.