Revelations that Washington State Patrol troopers are searching people of color at rates much higher than whites have prompted the Washington House of Representatives to propose restarting bias studies that the Patrol quietly discontinued 13 years ago.
The House’s proposed supplemental operating budget contains $50,000 to fund a collaboration between the State Patrol and Washington State University to analyze traffic stops for evidence of bias. The State Patrol contracted with Washington State University researchers to conduct similar studies in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
Clayton Mosher, professor of sociology at WSU Vancouver, who was involved in the 2003, 2005 and 2007 studies that raised red flags about the disproportionate search rates of Native Americans, said researchers didn’t find a “systemic problem” within the State Patrol. The new studies need to drill down into the regions where the searches are happening, and the State Patrol needs to be willing to intervene with individual troopers who might be responsible for the disproportionate search rates, Mosher said.
“I was disappointed that they stopped [the studies], so I’m pleased to hear they’re doing it again,” Mosher said of the budget proposal. “It shows transparency.”