HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) – Today the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and the National Policing Institute highlighted findings from a comprehensive traffic stop study. The study examines data collected from over 440,000 trooper-initiated traffic stops in 2022.
“The goal of this project is to identify patterns and trends in traffic stops and outcomes to increase the equity and safety for motorists and for troopers,” said Dr. Robin Engel, Senior Vice President of the National Policing Institute.
The National Policing Institute is an independent, non-profit research organization. PSP was one of the first agencies to voluntarily collect traffic stop information after partnering with Dr. Engel in 1999. PSP continued voluntary reporting of traffic stops through 2010 and reinitiated robust data collection in 2021 for all trooper-initiated traffic stops, with the initial year of the program focused on improving data collection and addressing data quality issues when identified.
Dr. Engel specializes in empirical assessments of police behavior, police use of force, and police-community relations. According to Dr. Engel, Pennsylvania has one of the most comprehensive data collection efforts in the country for traffic stops.
“Our review of the PSP’s criminal interdiction training also suggests that their focus on both effective and equitable practices is a promising approach and serves as a national model,” said Dr. Engel.
Dr. Engel says findings from last year, especially traffic-stop outcomes based on race, should inspire confidence among residents and motorists.
“Race does not play a determining factor on whether or not a stopped motorist is issued a citation, a warning or arrested,” said Dr. Engel.
“54 percent of discretionary searches result in a seizure. This is, in fact, one of the highest success rates for searches that I have seen in the country,” said Dr. Engel.
Much of the data show promise, but Dr. Engel says there is still room for improvement.
“We still have some unexplained racial and ethnic disparities in search and seizures, but this is decreasing over time,” said Dr. Engel.
“We have to work on always continually getting better,” said PSP Commissioner Col. Christopher Paris.
Col. Paris says the results of the study will help improve training, policy and frontline supervision.
“This data is a valuable tool in our toolbox as we strive to carry out our duties with integrity, respect and trust in accordance with our department’s core values. Coupled with continued improvements in training, and our enhanced, more user-friendly, citizen complaint procedures, this data will help guide us as we provide the professional police services that residents of this Commonwealth not only expect but deserve,” said Col. Paris. “We want troopers that are out there enforcing the law regardless of class, color, creed or condition,” he added.