TxDPS contracts with UNT criminal justice and logistics faculty for racial profiling study

UNT’s logistics and criminal justice faculty are coming together to help the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) combat racial profiling. TxDPS awarded UNT a $194,273, nine-month contract to study 15 million records of the state’s data to determine whether racial profiling happens during traffic stops.                        

“The study will provide empirical, unbiased evidence of whether or not racial profiling occurs within the TxDPS by utilizing the latest validated analytic techniques for racial profiling assessment,” says Eric Fritsch, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, and the lead UNT researcher for the project.

Since December 2016, Fritsch, along with Chad Trulson, criminal justice professor, David Nowicki, director of the Center for Logistics Research and Education, and Wesley Randall, chair of the Department of Marketing and Logistics, have been assessing traffic stop data from 2011 to 2016. They are tasked with looking for evidence of racial profiling by TxDPS highway patrol officers and commercial motor vehicle enforcement officers. This includes any racial or ethnic disparities in traffic stops, searches or other post-stop actions at the state, regional or district levels.

UNT students from the logistics, computer science and engineering and criminal justice programs will assist with data management in organizing the project, which will be among the largest racial profiling studies in the country.

“The ability for students do deal with a very large dataset of 15 million records on a prominent topic of race and policing allows them to obtain applied research experience that will serve them well post-graduation,” says Fritsch.

Future plans include replicating analyses over time to come to a better understanding of long-term patterns in law enforcement traffic stop actions by race.    

Following the conclusion of their study later this year, UNT researchers will report to TxDPS leadership on the extent of disparities, if any, and potential explanations for patterns uncovered in the data. The report also include recommendations and other insights relative to the findings. 

Originally published by UNT Research & Innovation.