Communities across the country have found evidence that minority motorists are more likely to be pulled over by the police. In recent years, there has even been a nationwide push to have police agencies more actively and accurately collect data about who is being affected by traffic stops.
But when it comes to assessing whether a police department or even an individual officer is racially profiling drivers, there is still a significant roadblock.
“The challenge to analyzing whether a particular agency or even an individual police officer is engaged in racial profiling is that you don’t actually know who’s on the road,” says Matthew Ross, associate professor of public policy and economics at Northeastern University. “Basically, there’s no data set about who’s driving on a road, much less who’s driving on a road at a particular time and things like how fast they’re driving.”