Black drivers more likely than white drivers to be stopped in Virginia

"a lightbar on top of a police car during a traffic stop in Anahiem,CA."(Getty Images/iStockphoto/aijohn784)

New policing data shows Black drivers in Virginia are stopped and searched at a higher rate than white drivers.

The numbers released under Virginia’s new Community Policing Act show Black drivers are almost two times more likely than white drivers to be pulled over by police.

Black drivers were three times more likely to have their vehicles searched. In stops where searches ended in arrests, 23% of drivers ultimately arrested were Black, compared with 27% who were white.

Starting last July, all police in Virginia were required to begin listing demographic information about who they stopped and why. The report on the first six months of data includes more than 400,000 traffic stops from almost every police and sheriff’s office in Virginia.

The demographic data that police officers are required to collect when they stop a driver, frisk a person or temporarily detain a person during a stop includes the following:

  • The race, ethnicity, age, gender of the person stopped;
  • The reason for the stop;
  • The location of the stop;
  • Whether a warning, written citation or summons was issued, or if anyone was arrested;
  • If a warning, written citation or summons was issued, or if any person was arrested;
  • Whether the vehicle or any person was searched.

In Fairfax County, the state’s most populous county, overall, 13,995 people received citations from police, while 7,117 were given warnings, 2,362 were arrested and no action was taken in 436 stops.

In Prince William County, police cited 11,310 drivers, gave warnings to 7,204, arrested 215 and took no action in 360 stops.

In Arlington County, there were 9,987 citations, 3,680 warnings, 145 arrests and 111 stops where no action was taken.

See a full chart of stops in Virginia’s largest counties and cities.

Starting in July of this year, Virginia police will list whether the person stopped spoke English, whether the officer used physical force against a person and whether anyone used physical force against officers.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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