RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A new state report from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services shows Black and Hispanic drivers are disproportionately pulled over by police in Virginia.
The report analyzed more than 650,000 traffic stops in the state from July 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023.
The data shows that Black and Hispanic drivers make up only 28% of Virginia’s driving-age population, but make up over 40% of drivers stopped by police. In comparison, White drivers make up 64% of the driving-age population but account for only 57% of stops.
“This is no surprise, but we just want to highlight that it is a problem in our neighborhoods that causes distrust between communities and law enforcement,” Virginia NAACP President Robert Barnette Jr. said.
Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, says officers don’t take race into account when stopping a car.
“They don’t know that race or ethnicity until they walk up to the car so there is not a targeting of people of color,” Dana Schrad said.
But Barnette says officers may use other factors, including socio-economic clues, which lead them to pull over more minority drivers.
“Say you had a brand-new Mercedes versus my vehicle which is a 1968 Mercedes,” Barnette said. “Typically, I believe that enters into the officer’s decision whether to pull it over.”
The data also shows once stopped, Black and Hispanic drivers are more likely to be searched and arrested.
Schrad says crime tends to be higher in Black and Latino communities and officers are simply going where they are called.
“It does mean that we are focused on communities of color because that is where the greatest need is, and as a result that may be where our traffic stops occur more likely,” Schrad said.
The report also says the finding that minority drivers are more likely to be stopped is consistent with data from other states.