STATE HOUSE — The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence) that would require the statewide collection and analysis of data about the races of drivers stopped and searched by police.
The bill (2024-S 2137) would amend the Comprehensive Community-Police Relationship Act of 2015 to require an annual study on traffic stop and search data related to racial disparities, and would require a monthly review and annual reporting by law enforcement agencies statewide on the traffic stop and search data. Under the original law, such data collection was required from 2016 to 2020. With this bill, that data collection would be reinstated permanently.
“People of color are far more likely to be pulled over or searched than the general population,” said Senator Quezada. “While we are all well aware of this disparity, we need to continue to collect this information, so that we, as policymakers, can know what strategies to employ to address those disparities, ensuring fair and equitable processes during every last point in the criminal justice system.”
The original law came in the wake of a 2014 study by Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice that found that police are more likely to pull over people of color than white drivers in a majority of Rhode Island communities, but less likely to give them a ticket.
The study, which reviewed more than 150,000 traffic stops made by 39 police agencies during a nine-month period the previous year, found similar statewide patterns as those reported in a 2004-05 study. Among those findings is that minorities were pulled over at a disproportionate rate when comparing the driver’s race to the racial makeup of the city or town where the stop was made.
The bill’s requirements for the data are similar to previous versions of the law: During every traffic stop, police would be required to include the race of the driver, as perceived by the officer, and whether anyone was arrested, cited or issued a warning. Officers would be required to report additional information if they search a vehicle, including whether the search was performed by consent, for probable cause or reasonable suspicion of a crime and whether anything was seized. Each municipal department would report the data monthly to the Department of Transportation’s Office of Highway Safety, which would be required to issue annual reports on the collected data, as well as a quarterly summary.
The act would also create a 12-member CCPRA advisory committee to advise the Office of Highway Safety on all matters pertaining to the committee’s duties relating to stop and search data.
The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2024-H 7099) has been introduced by Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence).