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Review of Demographic Traffic Stop Data For Palo Alto, CA, 2009/Q4.

Review of Demographic Traffic Stop Data For Palo Alto, CA, 2009/Q4.

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Published by wmartin46
Palo Alto City Council
City of Palo Alto
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Subject: Preliminary Review of Palo Alto Traffic Stop Demographic Data for 2009/Q4.

Elected Council Members:

Although the Palo Alto Police have stopped collecting demographic stop data, it was never clear that this data had been thoroughly analyzed. As part of my review of traffic accident data, I decided to look at the traffic stop data that had been placed on the Palo Alto Police WEB-site. The attached paper is essentially a “first draft” of the review of this paper.

The project led me to reviewing other reviews/studies of traffic stop data, as I found that this was not an easy project to bring to closure. As it turns out, most of the other studies came to the same conclusion that I did—there just isn’t enough data in the traffic stop records to do justice to the problem of determining if there is a racial element involved in the police department’s actions.
The Palo Alto Police Department did collect the City-of-Residence of those stopped, which provided a door into areas of research that did not/does not exist in the data collected by most police departments around the country. This additional information allowed a linkage between the actual representation in the US Census to the races of those stopped by the Palo Alto Police, although even this is not sufficient to “prove” that “racial profiling” occurs during traffic stops here in Palo Alto.

The paper turned out to be a “serious” research effort—pushing almost 120 pages. I hope that the length of the document does not deter you from reading through it, and thinking about the questions/issues raised by the analysis of the traffic stop data for just one single quarter—2009/Q4.

Because the implications of the review involve all of the neighboring police departments, I’ll be forwarding this paper on to the various decision makes in these cities for their consideration.
Wayne Martin
Palo Alto, CA
Palo Alto City Council
City of Palo Alto
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Subject: Preliminary Review of Palo Alto Traffic Stop Demographic Data for 2009/Q4.

Elected Council Members:

Although the Palo Alto Police have stopped collecting demographic stop data, it was never clear that this data had been thoroughly analyzed. As part of my review of traffic accident data, I decided to look at the traffic stop data that had been placed on the Palo Alto Police WEB-site. The attached paper is essentially a “first draft” of the review of this paper.

The project led me to reviewing other reviews/studies of traffic stop data, as I found that this was not an easy project to bring to closure. As it turns out, most of the other studies came to the same conclusion that I did—there just isn’t enough data in the traffic stop records to do justice to the problem of determining if there is a racial element involved in the police department’s actions.
The Palo Alto Police Department did collect the City-of-Residence of those stopped, which provided a door into areas of research that did not/does not exist in the data collected by most police departments around the country. This additional information allowed a linkage between the actual representation in the US Census to the races of those stopped by the Palo Alto Police, although even this is not sufficient to “prove” that “racial profiling” occurs during traffic stops here in Palo Alto.

The paper turned out to be a “serious” research effort—pushing almost 120 pages. I hope that the length of the document does not deter you from reading through it, and thinking about the questions/issues raised by the analysis of the traffic stop data for just one single quarter—2009/Q4.

Because the implications of the review involve all of the neighboring police departments, I’ll be forwarding this paper on to the various decision makes in these cities for their consideration.
Wayne Martin
Palo Alto, CA

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Published by: wmartin46 on Dec 17, 2011
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Preliminary Review of City of Palo AltoTraffic Stop Demographic Data(2009/4
th
Quarter) And Other Traffic-Related IssuesTable Of Contents
SectionTopic
 
1.0Summary 2.0Foreword 3.0Structure of This Report 4.0Initial Discussion
4.1Traffic Stops On A National Level4.2Traffic Stops In Palo Alto4.3Racial Profiling Defined4.4No Yearly Palo Alto Police Performance Report4.5Crime And Race In Palo Alto4.6Broken Windows vs. Community Policing: The Context of RacialProfiling Studies4.7Proactive Policing--“Good” vs “Bad” (“Pretext) Traffic Stops4.8Proving “Racial Profiling” Using Traffic Stop Data4.9Linkages Between Traffic Stops And Traffic Accidents4.10Alcohol-related Accident Locations And Arrest Stop Locations4.11Costs vs Benefits of “Traffic Services”4.12Yearly Contacts--A Metric Of “Service Levels”4.13Costs of Traffic Stops For County/State/Federal Governments4.14Issues Suggesting Regionalization Of Public Safety Agencies 
5.0Presentation of US Census Data
5.1SF.BayArea 2010 Census Data5.2Regional/State/US Census Data 
6.0Presentation of SWITRS Traffic Accident Data (By Race)
6.1Traffic Accidents In Palo Alto (2009) (By Race) 
7.0Presentation of Palo Alto Traffic Stop Data
 
7.1Basic Traffic Stops Data7.2City-of-Residence For Majority of Traffic Stops (~80%)7.3Comparison of Accidents Locations vs Traffic Stops Locations(By Streets)7.4Stops On Major Streets, By Race7.5Stops--By City/By Race7.6Stops---By Month: All Cities, All Races7.7Traffic Stops—All Cities/By Race7.8StopsBy Time-of-Day7.9Stops Resulting In Searches7.10Stops Resulting In Arrests7.14East Palo Alto Stops—A Closer Look.7.15Traffic Stop Productivity—Citations vs. No-Citation Stops
 
8.0Data Not Available 9.0Comparison Of Palo Alto Stop Data With Other Communities’ StopData 
10.0List O“Red Flags” 11.0General Discussion
11.1Monitoring Police Performance Requires Collecting Traffic Stop Data.11.2Future Traffic Stop Data Review Need Only Focus On Local Cities.11.3SurprisesGood and Bad11.4Comparison Of Stops Data With Other Jurisdictions.11.5Evidence of Traffic Stop “Quotas” In Palo Alto11.7Probability of Being Stopped While Driving In Palo Alto, On YearlyBasis11.8Racial/Cultural Differences In Driver Behavior11.9
Racial Components Of Traffic Stops--A Reflection of Immigration Trends?
11.10Productivity of Traffic Stop Searches11.11Value of “No Action/Warning” Stops11.12Issues With Current Review11.13Areas For Future Inquiry11.14
 
Problems With Independent Police Auditor’s Review
12.0Conclusion
12.1Data Review12.2Process Review
 
 
13.0Recommendations
 
14.0Final Thoughts/Comments
14.1Point-of-View Of This Review.14.2Problems With Data Availability.14.3Evidence For Terminating/Reducing “Street Teams”/”Traffic Services14.4Complexity Of Modeling Traffic Stops14.5Police Not Supportive14.6Costs Associated With This Review14.7Report Generation Tools Needed.14.8
Concern Over
“Red Flags”
1.0 Summary
The issue of “racial profiling” ( or “bias”) by police, arising in the execution of trafficstops has been raised at a national level for some time now. This concern has resulted innumerous studies by various governmental, and non-governmental,agencies/organizations around the country for well over a decade. These studies, as itturns out, have not produced a consistent statistical/data collection methodology whichcan be applied by any local law enforcement agency to produce “hard” data that willestablish, prove, or disprove, that “bias” exists in the execution of traffic stops. Thedifficulty of this problem in “statistical analysis” is discussed in great detail in the papersgenerated by every organization involved in this work. (Links provided to several studiesin Appendix.G. Persons unfamiliar with this topic are encouraged to review these papers.Also, a glossary of terms is provided in Appendix.A to provide additional informationabout terms and concepts pertinent to this topic.)Here in Palo Alto, there have been more than a few complaints about “racial profiling”directed against the local police, where traffic stops are concerned, over the years. Thesecomplaints gained sufficient attention, at some point, so that the City Council directed thePalo Alto Police to keep records on individual traffic stops--recording the race the driver.Responding to the Council’s concerns about racial bias in policing, the Palo Alto PoliceDepartment in July, 2000, became the fourth city police department in the state to record
 
the race of every person stopped by its officers. This data was then analyzed, and reports provided to the City Council (see links below) periodically.

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