New Jersey Rolls Out Pilot Program to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Traffic Policing


Independent researchers tapped to evaluate the efficacy of a program aimed at curbing the overrepresentation of minorities in motor vehicle stops, enforcement actions, and fatal crashes.

NEW JERSEY - Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin has announced the initiation of a traffic stop pilot program involving the New Jersey State Police (NJSP). The overarching aim of this program is to address racial and ethnic disparities identified in motor vehicle enforcement actions and fatal motor vehicle crashes in the state.

The Office of the Attorney General has engaged an independent research team, led by Dr. Matthew B. Ross of Northeastern University, to develop and assess interventions that will be piloted across the state. The team is composed of experts with a strong background in the study of police enforcement actions and racial disparities.

In a prior study conducted by Dr. Ross, data related to over 6 million traffic stops made by the NJSP between January 2009 and June 2021 revealed significant racial disparities in enforcement actions. A higher proportion of Black and Hispanic motorists were stopped, searched, arrested, and experienced the use of force compared to White motorists. The study also showed an increasing trend of traffic stops involving minorities over time.

The initial findings revealed the following disparities for Black and Hispanic motorists relative to white motorists stopped by NJSP troopers:

  • More likely to undergo a search once stopped:
    • Black motorists were 89.8%, and Hispanic motorists were 46.4%, more likely to be searched once stopped than white motorists.
  • When searched, less likely to possess evidence:
    • Black motorists were 9.7%, and Hispanic motorists were 26.6%, less likely to have evidence found when searched after a stop than white motorists.
  • More likely to be asked to exit their vehicle:
    • Black motorists were 14.65%, and Hispanic motorists were 9.6%, more likely to be asked to exit their vehicle once stopped by NJSP than white motorists.
  • More likely to be arrested once stopped:
    • Black motorists were 87.5%, and Hispanic motorists were 56.8%, more likely to be arrested once stopped by NJSP than white motorists.
  • More likely to experience use of force by law enforcement:
    • Black motorists were 130%, and Hispanic motorists were 27.5%, more likely to experience force once stopped by NJSP, relative to a dependent mean of 0.010.

“The preliminary findings of the ongoing study being conducted by Dr. Ross are deeply troubling," said Attorney General Platkin. "All New Jersey residents and visitors to this great state deserve to be treated equally and fairly – especially by people in positions of authority sworn to serve the public."

In light of the findings, the pilot program will involve all members of the NJSP who regularly engage in traffic enforcement actions. Different interventions may be applied to various subsets of the NJSP to evaluate their effectiveness. For example, some members may be directed to focus on enforcement efforts on violations most likely to lead to fatal and serious motor vehicle crashes, while others may undergo an audit of their stops.

Colonel Patrick Callahan, Superintendent of the NJSP, said, “It is our hope that the outcome of these pilot programs guides our policies and practices to minimize, if not eliminate, any disparities in how we serve the public."

Throughout the pilot program, community leaders and advocates will be consulted to help inform policy reforms. Public briefings about the progress of the program will begin once sufficient data on the interventions has been analyzed by the research team.

Platkin has pledged transparency in both the process and the findings of the ongoing study and pilot program and is committed to publishing the ultimate findings of the research team as soon as possible.

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