In response to the findings JAD developed a publicly accessible dashboard that presents traffic stop data from all Texas departments that submit to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE). The dashboard contains visualizations whereby a user can select a department and a variable to display the information based on racial demographics. A second tab compares Harris County to Bexar County, Dallas County, Tarrant County, and Travis County. The final view provides the ability to inspect the raw data and to compare racial and ethnic groups to one another.
Public access to data pertaining to traffic stops is a valuable tool for the public, law enforcement, and community partners as they identify possible solutions or improvements to current practices. Most resident’s encounter law enforcement and many have pushed for information to analyze gender and racial demographics. Based upon the Commissioners Court request, JAD’s policy team began analyzing public traffic stop data submitted by law enforcement to TCOLE.
Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Precinct 2 stated, “Even before coming into office, when I was still an active Law Enforcement officer, I have always believed in transparency and easily-digestible presentations of data that can lead to positive changes. The findings of this new dashboard from JAD, while not surprising, are important and can inform actions that can bring meaningful change. In order for Harris County to be a place where everyone is treated fairly, regardless of race or ethnicity, we must have reliable data to help us understand areas for improvement. I support JAD’s recommendations and urge all relevant County Law Enforcement departments to consider making changes that contribute to the dashboard.”
In June of 2017, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1849, known as the Sandra Bland Act, into law. This requires law enforcement departments to collect traffic stop information on the drivers, the characteristics of stops, and the outcomes of stops. This data is then submitted to TCOLE.
Using the most recently available data (2020) TCOLE traffic stop data, JAD examined the gender, and racial demographics of traffic stops in Harris County, including disaggregated statistics on search rates, contraband discovery, stop results including arrest, citations, and warnings, and the use of force resulting in bodily injury rates for each Constable Precinct and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).
Overall, the analysis does not show significant racial inequality in rates of traffic stops, consent searches, and contraband discovery. The data also does not show any significant difference between Departments. However, JAD identified several key findings regarding disparate results and gaps in data.
- All Harris County Law Enforcement Agencies are twice as likely to perform a traffic stop when a driver is male compared to female.
- Harris County Law Enforcement Agencies issue more citations than written and verbal warnings to specific racial and ethnic groups.
- Harris County Law Enforcement Agencies use force that results in bodily injury against Black and White drivers more frequently than against other racial/ethnic groups.
However, the data used presents several gaps, including: (1) most Departments do not provide multilingual complaint documentation and do not have online complaint submission methods; (2) Constable Precincts are not well defined, making it difficult to compare TCOLE data to census data.
The report makes several recommendations that call for an in increase in public accessibility to the complaint processes, an increase in the quality and accessibility of additional data, and improvements to Harris County law enforcement agencies’ submission of reports to TCOLE. Some of those recommendations are already taking place.
“Our office is open, honest, and transparent. We have reached out to JAD on numerous occasions in our effort to have policies based off of best practices. JAD has made some recommendations to improve our practices and we have implemented several changes already. For example, we have developed an easy online process where individuals can file a complaint or provide commendation, and we plan to introduce more best practices in the near future,” said Constable Jerry Garcia, Precinct 2.
Click how to use Dashboard Guide, PowerPoint Presentation on Dashboard, Full Report, and Summary of Report. Or visit the JAD website. Additionally, to view the presentation on Commissioners Court, click here.