Pa. State Police resume tracking racial data during traffic stops in response to Spotlight PA report

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The Pennsylvania State Police announced Tuesday that it had resumed collecting racial data during traffic stops, nine years after the department quietly ended the practice and in direct response to a previous investigative report by Spotlight PA.

Many police departments across the nation collect racial data from traffic stops in order to detect potential racial bias in policing. In 2019, Spotlight PA revealed the State Police had ended its collection program in 2012 with no official announcement and for reasons that remain unclear.

In response to the findings, the statewide law enforcement agency pledged to resume the practice.

“Troopers take an oath to enforce the law ‘without any consideration of class, color, creed or condition,’ and this data collection effort is one way to show the public we are upholding that oath,” State Police Commissioner Col. Robert Evanchick said Tuesday in a news release. “Regular and ongoing analysis by a neutral third party is a critical part of this program that emphasizes our department’s commitment to transparency and continuous improvement.”

Kenneth Huston, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the NAACP, said the department’s announcement was an encouraging development, especially given that accusations of racial profiling have dogged the department in recent years.

“We respect law enforcement — whether it’s local, or state, or federal — but, with the Pennsylvania State Police, there seems to be this narrative that they are racial profiling,” Huston said.

In the summer of 2019, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit against the State Police alleging troopers were violating the law by stopping and holding people solely because they were Latinx. In 2017, the department paid $150,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a Latino man who alleged he was profiled by troopers and arrested on false charges.

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