PRELIMINARY PERFORMANCE REVIEW OF THE
WEST VIRGINIA STATE POLICE
The Number of Minority Warning Citations
Issued by the West Virginia State Police
in August 2000 is in Keeping with
State Minority Populations
Issue Area 1: The Number of Minority Warning Citations Issued by the West Virginia State Police in August 2000 is in Keeping with State Minority Populations.
During the last few years a national "hot button" issue has been racial profiling: The stopping by law enforcement of minority citizens due to the belief, that minorities are more likely to be involved in criminal activity. Many states and cities across the United States have dealt with this issue by conducting lengthy investigations or studies to determine if their state police or local law- enforcement officers are guilty of this practice. The Performance Evaluation and Research Division (PERD) has determined that traffic stops by the West Virginia State Police are in keeping with the state's population ratios indicating that the agency as a whole is not practicing racial profiling.
Analysis of Traffic Stops
In order to determine if the practice of racial profiling exists, PERD requested warning citation data from the agency for the month of August 2000. Warning citations as opposed to traffic violation tickets were the basis for the analysis because racial profiling maybe more reflected in warning citations than in traffic violation tickets. If an officer was profiling a certain population and nothing was found, then a warning may be issued simply as an excuse for pulling the individual over. However, this data source is limited because warning citations are destroyed within thirty days. Therefore, the analysis focused on one month. Actual traffic citations which are maintained for several years were considered as a source of data but posed problems due to the legibility of the copies, especially after duplication. PERD was able to collect 4,835 of the 10,320 warning citations issued during August 2000. The chart below summarizes the findings of the data analyzed:
Comparison of Persons Stopped to State Minority Population
|Race of Person Stopped||Number of Persons Stopped||Percentage of Sample||Percentage of State Population||Difference|
|Blank or Illegible||171||3.54%||NA||NA|
The state police is divided into six troops across the state. In order
to further analyze the data, an analysis was done according to the racial
makeup of those counties which encompass each troop and the warning citations
issued. This analysis also indicates that the traffic stops made by the
agency are not out of line with the racial makeup of those areas. Table
2 below provides the total number of stops reviewed, the percentage of
minority stops and the percentage of minority populations residing within
Comparison of Persons Stopped by Individual Troop to State Minority Population
|Troop Number*||Total Number of Stops Reviewed||Percentage of Minority Stops||County Minority Pop. within a Troop|
This analysis indicates that currently the agency as a whole is not stopping citizens due to their race. However, this is not a long term study and cannot comment on past practices of the agency nor those of individual officers. In addition, the analysis does not include data regarding searches of individuals.
Racial Profiling a National Issue
For several years racial profiling has been a very publicized national issue. Numerous stories have appeared in magazines and newspapers across the nation regarding the selective enforcement methods of various law-enforcement agencies across the country. One of the more publicized has been the State of New Jersey. There the state police was accused of racial profiling and subsequent investigations by the state attorney general confirmed that the agency was guilty of the practice. The investigation prompted many changes within the New Jersey State Police and much litigation followed the confirmation. Other states have also faced this problem which may stem from federal profiles regarding drug suspects. Some organizations contend that the federal profiles of criminal suspects are tainted due to the selective enforcement efforts which focus on minorities. As a result of these efforts, the number of minority convictions for drug crimes are much higher than for non minorities.
Future Plans of the West Virginia State Police
According to senior staff members of the state police, a new ticket system is being implemented. In June 2000 the agency began "working on a plan to implement a system of data collection from traffic stops made by troopers during the performance of their duties." The agency intends to implement a "scantron" type of form which could be processed through an optical reader. The data derived from such a system would not only aid the department in detecting racial profiling, but would also provide numerous other categories of data to assist in daily management duties and future planning for enforcement.
Initially the agency plans to conduct a limited test of the system to determine its effectiveness and make adjustments prior to fielding the system statewide. In addition, the state police plan to develop a policy regarding racial profiling as a "partner to this project."
The efforts of the West Virginia State Police are pro-active and will guide the agency in the appropriate direction. By implementing a detailed ticketing system the agency will have an abundance of information by which to manage the organization. The data provided to PERD for this issue all had to be inputted by hand and was very labor intensive; however, the new ticketing system should produce detailed computerized data which will be invaluable to the organization in making management decisions and managing personnel. In addition, by being pro-active the agency may avoid costly litigation because increased data can alert supervisors to the actions of officers which are abusing the rights of citizens.
The West Virginia State Police should complete its current plan to institute a detailed ticketing system which will monitor officer's actions more closely, assist in protecting the agency from lawsuits due to inappropriate behavior and provide an effective management tool. A periodic report regarding traffic stops should also be produced.