Texas DPS More Likely to Stop-and-Search Latino Motorists

The Austin American-Statesman released a report of their analysis of fifteen (15) million records representing every traffic stop conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) between the beginning of 2009 and July 2015.

This analysis revealed that Latino motorists were thirty percent (33%) more likely to be searched than Caucasian (White) motorists. What is more damning is that those searches were less likely to yield the discovery of contraband than the searches performed on Caucasian motorists.

DPS claims to treat motorists of different races equally, but their own data seems to indicate otherwise. As a result of the Stateman’s inquiry regarding their findings, the DPS will hire an independent third-party to audit their data regarding traffic stops. DPS spokesman Tom Vinger stated, “Because this is such an important issue, DPS will be seeking to enter into a contract with third-party experts to review the department’s traffic stop data collection and analyses to determine if there are any recommendations for improving those efforts.”

“If the purpose of the law was to utilize law enforcement agencies’ data to make definitive statements on racial profiling trends, the fact that the data in this case is flawed and filled with errors, it makes it virtually impossible.” – Alex Del Carmen If that were not enough, the analysis also identified potential red flags that merit further scrutiny. For example, the DPS performed searches on nearly 20,000 motorists whose race was categorized as unidentified. A review of the names reveals that most appear to be Latinos. Ergo, data documenting searches of Latino motorists are likely undercounted and not reliable. Alex Del Carmen, Executive Director of Tarleton State University School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Strategic Studies, also noted that the data was difficult to properly analyze because it was maintained poorly by the DPS.

The high amount of search rates of Latino motorists, coupled with the low rates of contraband discovery, indicates something is wrong with DPS protocol and training. There is an obvious disparate treatment of Latino motorists. For every four (4) Latino motorists that DPS searches, DPS troopers only find contraband on one (1) Latino motorist.

Why are Latino motorist more likely to be searched by DPS? Is it because Latino motorist are more likely to be ignorant of their legal rights regarding searches? Is there a language barrier? Was there actual consent? Or, was consent implied? How many searches of Latino motorists were undercounted? Or, better yet, not documented at all? Even though the DPS has a zero-tolerance policy on racial profiling, it begs the question.