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Report: Black drivers stopped at higher rate in Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Black drivers are stopped at a higher rate than white drivers in Vermont and Black and Hispanic drivers are ticketed, arrested and searched at higher rates, a new report finds.

The study entitled “Trends in Racial Disparities in Vermont Traffic Stops, 2014-19” is based on estimated populations of drivers and more than 800,000 traffic stops in Vermont by 79 Vermont law enforcement agencies.

White drivers are stopped at a rate of 256 per 1,000 white residents, compared to Black drivers who are stopped at a rate of 459 per 1,000 Black residents, according to the the report co-authored by University of Vermont professor Stephanie Seguino that was released on Monday.

The study also found that Black and Hispanic drivers are searched at a much higher rate than white drivers, but are less likely to be found with contraband.

The Vermont State Police said Tuesday that it was just starting to digest the report’s findings and said it reiterates its commitment to bias-free policing, an area in which it said it has received local and national recognition for its leadership.

VSP “welcomes any data and information that can help us provide service to our community with an even greater emphasis on fairness and equity,” spokesperson Adam Silverman said in a written statement.

The Vermont Police Association did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The study also found that while data has improved from some agencies not all are abiding by legislation requiring race data to be collected during traffic stops.

“I continue to be appalled at the number of law enforcement agencies that are not maintaining the standards” in data collection, Curtiss Reed, Jr., president of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness & Diversity said Tuesday. “Without good data you can’t make good decisions.”

The Legislature should consider things like withholding state funds that go to police departments until they sufficiently collect the data, he said.

Oftentimes the way that potential Vermont officers have been educated by the time they get to the police academy makes them largely Eurocentric and oftentimes not “worldly” in terms of their exposure to other races and cultures, Reed said.

The state may not be able to entirely close the gap on disparities until it has law enforcement officers who are trained from an anti-racist model, he said.

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