It’s a normal phenomenon to occasionally get stopped by the police when driving. It’s something you can’t escape, regardless of who you are. However, multiple sources from data analysts, like the Texas Tribune journalists as well as records from law enforcement offices, show that state troopers are significantly more likely to stop and arrest people of color in Texas than their white counterparts.
The Texas Tribune observed police officers pulling over cars near Montopolis Drive and East Riverside Drive in Austin for a whole night. They observed that out of the nine traffic stops made by the police only one of them was a white driver. There was also an incident where police officers pulled a gun on a father who was with his 10-year-old child during a traffic stop. While Black and Latino residents make up 41% of Austin’s population, 82% of people charged with misdemeanors by Texas State Troopers were Black or Latino.
Furthermore, state troopers have been charging drivers for marijuana-related infractions despite the fact that Austin decriminalized possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana in May of 2023. Possessing a small amount of marijuana is no longer a criminal offense in Austin, yet 99% of marijuana-related citations issued by Texas state troopers during DWI and other traffic stops were for decriminalized quantities.
Implications of racial profiling
Racial profiling in traffic stops has the potential to create an atmosphere of fear and mistrust between law enforcement officers and people of color. It can lead to people being afraid of the police, making them less likely to cooperate in situations where they could be helpful. It also sends a message to people of color that their safety and rights are not valued by law enforcement agencies.
It is important to understand your rights as a citizen, like the right to remain silent and the right to refuse unwarranted searches (i.e., if there were no probable cause, a warrant or a routine checkpoint stop).