Racial disparities in police stops and searches

Racial disparities in police stops and searches

Racial disparities in police stops and searches: Statistical analysis of police stops and searches over the years to identify if the police force is biased against minority groups.


This report aims to investigate whether the police force is racially biased towards White individuals, compared to those of minority race and ethnicities such as Black or Hispanic. I analyzed the data from the Stanford Open Policing Project, who collected standardized data on police stops in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between 2013 and 2017. I assessed biased decisions made by the police based on examining the rate at which the police searched the stopped drivers and whether these searches were successful in finding contraband. The raw data contains information on the driver’s age, sex, race/ethnicity, the location of the stop, and whether the police searched them.


Racial bias in the police force has been a controversial topic for decades. However, the recent news of police stops and searches have led to violence against innocent Black Americans. For example, George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black American man, was killed by a police officer for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. This event sparked protests and outrage worldwide, due to the discrimination in policing against Black people.

Assessing data of the rate of stops and searches could provide evidence on whether there is racial discrimination against minorities. Another strategy would be assessing the proportion of searches that successfully identify contraband. If the proportion of successful searches of minorities are less than those of Whites, this could suggest that officers are searching minorities based on less evidence. To narrow the analysis scope, I subsetted the data to focus on vehicular police stops in 2017.


In this data, 1,756,587 police stops occurred between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2017, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 294,060 of these police stops were vehicular police stops in 2017.

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