New data reveals DC police stopped mostly black drivers, launching bias research

Here’s a preview of the report about new data on D.C. police stops. (Courtesy D.C. police)

New data collected in the last month by D.C. police shows that black drivers are stopped by officers at a higher rate. But the city has a plan to do more with the data and delve into bias in policing.

When it comes to police stops in the District, the findings are not surprising, even to D.C. police. The department noted the demographics of who its officers stopped is consistent with its other publicly available data.

“Seventy percent of persons stopped during the reporting period were black, while 15% were white. In comparison, 46% of the District’s population is black and 37% is non-Hispanic white,” according to a report of the data.

As part of the NEAR Act, D.C. police partnered with the Department of Motor Vehicles to help officers to collect information about police stops to build a database, including demographic information, the reason for the stop and what happened during the stop.

Read the full D.C. police report here

The data was collected between July 22 and Aug. 18 of 2019. During that time, 11,600 stops were made. Of those stops, 70% of vehicles were registered outside of D.C., 86% were resolved without any kind of pat-down and most were over in 15 minutes, according to police.

For every 100 stops, 20 people were arrested for a crime. Most of the stops were to issue traffic tickets, according to the report.

“There are many reasons why a simple comparison of demographics between those who live in D.C. and those who are stopped in D.C. cannot accurately answer the question of bias. Fundamentally, bias needs to be measured in comparison to the rate of behavior that should lead to a police stop,” the report said.

D.C. police will take the data and work with The Lab @ DC to begin more comprehensive research to determine whether the stops are biased and how the department can improve.

As police said in the report, “The department is partnering with The Lab @ DC to ensure that any independent researchers engaged do this in a transparent and scientifically valid manner, such as by sharing a pre-analysis plan to be reviewed by experts in the field and registering all analyses and results on the Open Science Framework.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up