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Study: West Virginia Traffic Cops Target Innocent Minorities
West Virgina statistical report shows driving while black is considered a suspicious activity.

Race study cover
Black motorists may be as much as three times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white motorist while driving through the state of West Virginia, even though they are less likely to be carrying contraband. This is so according to a report by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. The agency performed a statistical analysis of 301,479 traffic stops that took place between April 2007 and September 2008. Among all 348 state, county and local law enforcement agencies, blacks were 64 percent more likely than whites to be stopped. Hispanics were 48 percent more likely to be stopped.

Once pulled over, a black and Hispanic drivers were 146 percent more likely to be searched -- even though they were less likely to be carrying contraband than whites, according to the study. Indians and Asians were more likely than whites to be carrying prohibited items when searched.

In certain parts of the state, minorities are treated differently. In Calhoun and Wirt counties, for example, blacks and Hispanics were six times more likely to be searched. The Parkersburg and Martinsburg police departments were twice as likely to stop minorities. However, even in cities like Charleston where police treated white and non-white motorists equally, certain patrol areas such as North Charleston and South Ruffner to Route 119 targeted non-whites.

"Despite the higher search rates for black drivers, Charleston PD, Beckley PD, Huntington PD, and Wheeling PD had lower contraband hit rates for black drivers compared to white drivers," the report explained.

The study also found that 23.8 percent of drivers ticketed were from out-of-state. Tickets were most frequently issued -- 44 percent of the time -- for speeding. The month of May and the hours of 4pm and 10pm are the most heavily ticketed times. Each stop lasted an average of eleven minutes and drivers had a 49.5 percent chance of escaping with just a warning. The study did not examine any disparity in the frequency of warnings issued to women as compared to men.

The state legislature ordered police agencies to begin gathering racial data on January 1, 2007. A copy of the final report is available in a 275k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File West Virginia Traffic Stop Study (WV Division of Criminal Justice Services, 2/28/2009)

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