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State report finds racial disparity in police stops

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GBH, February 2024.

A new report commissioned by the state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security uncovered potential racial bias in some of the 1.2 million traffic stops that occurred in Massachusetts in 2021 and 2022. Police in Massachusetts were less likely to give Black and Hispanic motorists warnings, and were more likely to search, criminally cite and arrest those groups of motorists, researchers from Worcester and Salem State universities found.

“Data like this is crucial for understanding police practices in Massachusetts, and where reforms and greater accountability may be necessary,” said Jessica Lewis, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. She said the organization saw similar findings in 2020.

“The data really underscores the need for greater transparency in policing,” Lewis added. Researchers also conducted department-level analyses for each law enforcement agency that had a minimum of 100 citations, which ended up being more than 80% of all law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts.

That showed five departments were more likely to stop non-white drivers during the day versus at night. Those were the Chelsea Police Department, Rochester Police Department, Southwick Police Department, Westwood Police Department and Massachusetts State Police Troop C-4. About two-thirds of the traffic stops overall were conducted by municipal police departments, and the other third were conducted by the Massachusetts State Police and other state agencies.

Read more at GBH.

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