Report: Traffic Stops Are Down But Racial Disparities Are Not

Traffic stops by Montgomery County Police are way down but disparities among the race of the drivers “have persisted or worsened over the five-year period,” according to a report by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight.

On Monday, Natalia Carrizosa, legislative analyst from the OLO, and members of the police force met with members of the council’s Transportation and Environment and Public Safety committees to discuss the findings.

Traffic stops are on the decrease due to the pandemic as well as political rhetoric following egregious incidents of police violence throughout the country.

“Politically, we have had a very difficult time getting officers reengaged because of the rhetoric,” said Captain Brian Dillman said, pointing specifically to the death of George Floyd.

During 2022, 30% of the traffic stops involved Black drivers, according to the report. Latinos were involved in 22% of the stops, and Whites were involved in 28%.

“It’s really Black males who are overrepresented,” Carrizosa said.

Police searches during traffic stops also pointed to racial disparities. According to the report, during traffic stops, 43% of Blacks were searched compared to 31% of Latinos and 21% of Whites.

Data about the driver’s race or ethnicity is based on a police officer’s observation. The driver, who is not asked, may self-identify differently, according to police. The officers also noted that these percentages can’t accurately be compared to the racial makeup of Montgomery County residents as drivers from Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C. as well as throughout the country also are included in the data.

Police issue three times as many warnings as citations. However, it was noted, one traffic stop could result in multiple violations.

Dillman noted that police training includes “a big emphasis” on bias training. Part of the officer’s honor code states that laws must be enforced without regard to race, he said.

Several councilmembers pointed to deaths of pedestrian, bicyclists and motorists on county roads. There were 46 fatalities during 2021 and two already this year, they noted. So far, in 2023, there have been 55 pedestrian and bicyclists struck, according to Council President Evan Glass.

“We are trying to combat human behavior,” Dillman said. If everyone was serious about reaching Vision Zero and ending all these deaths, the voters would not have agreed to legalize marijuana, he said.

Dillman also noted that the force is down 127 officers while the number of calls received has increased.

Montgomery County police patrol 507 square miles and more than 1.1 million residents.

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