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Washington to Study Bias in Police Traffic Stops

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

As we have noted before, law enforcement officers have to have a valid reason for pulling you over for a traffic stop. If an officer doesn't like a bumper sticker on your car or notices that you just pulled out of a bar's parking lot—these are not reasons to pull you over to investigate you for a DUI charge. For a legitimate traffic stop, an officer has to have witnessed you actually violating the law, like speeding or making an improper lane change without using a signal. Officers also cannot pull you over just because of your racial or ethnic makeup.

Investigative Report on Police Bias Leads to Funding in Washington State

It may come as no shock, but people of color, including African Americans, Latinos, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders are many more times likely to be pulled over for a traffic stop compared to white people, according to an investigative report from the nonprofit group, Investigate West. The irony is that law the police often find drugs or weapons on white people more than people of color during a traffic stop.

The investigation focused on data collected from Stanford University's Open Policing Project, which obtained traffic-stop data through public records requests. The data showed that in Washington, American Indians were more than five times more likely to be pulled over than their white counterparts. Despite a state law that was passed that ordered Washington State Patrol (WSP) officers to collect and share race and ethnicity data semiannually with the Criminal Justice Training Commission, WSP only did this three times over a span of 15 years.

As a result of the Investigate West study, Washington lawmaker Gina Mosbrucker has requested $50,000 for a bias study on traffic stop data. The study will be conducted as a collaborative project between WSP and Washington State University. The findings are due to the state legislature by the end of this year. The funding was approved in the state's budget in March 2020.

The Stanford Open Policing Project also found that across the country, there is 

evidence that the bar for searching Black and Hispanic drivers is lower than for searching whites.

Diversifying Washington State Patrol

In addition to funding the bias study, the Washington legislature also approved $150,000 to hire a consulting firm to develop a plan to diversify WSP's workforce. Right now, according to the Investigate West report, WSP officers are 85% white and 90% male. This action plan will also have to address the reasons why people of color are underrepresented within WSP.

Defense Against Biased Seattle Traffic Stops

Being a person of color is no reason for a WSP officer or Seattle Police Department to pull you over and accuse you of DUI or any other criminal charges. If you believe this has happened to you or that you were unfairly treated by a law enforcement officer because of your race or ethnicity, you should contact former-King County prosecutor Steve Karimi.

At Karimi Law Office, we respect all of our clients. We will make sure you are represented fairly as you fight any charges you may be facing. Call 206-621-8777 or fill out an online contact form today.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.

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