Improve Texas’ Racial Profiling Statute to Strengthen Reporting and Provide Accountability

Policy Background:

In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed SB 1074, requiring law enforcement agencies to annually report on the race of people who are stopped and searched in their jurisdictions.

However, the data does not fully capture relevant police practices, especially around the seizure of contraband during searches, and there are outdated exceptions to reporting for agencies that previously qualified for grant funds for audio-video equipment.

Furthermore, while the Texas statute prohibits racial profiling, it also says that racial profiling data cannot be used as “prima facie” evidence of racial profiling.

Texas policy-makers should amend the racial profiling statute to strengthen the enforcement of the prohibition (e.g., by clarifying that the data can be used in conjunction with other evidence to ensure that officers with patterns of bias can be identified, trained, and sanctioned if other methods do not improve the situation); require agencies to report additional data points; and delete obsolete exceptions to reporting.

Key Facts:

  • Professor Frank Baumgartner of the University of North Carolina conducted an analysis of all traffic stop data for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) over five years. The comprehensive dataset strongly supports the finding that DPS searches Black drivers at a significantly higher rate than other drivers, even after accounting for a variety of explanatory factors.1
  • Bias in stops and searches appears to be directly related to bias in “pretext” stops. The DPS analysis was based on millions of stops, enabling robust analysis of the stops based on race, gender, and the underlying traffic offense. The most minor offenses revealed the greatest bias: “Those speeding by just a small amount are more than 4 times as likely to be searched. Those speeding by more substantial amounts are much more likely simply to be given a ticket and put on their way.”2 This variable is additive to other variables, leading to the clear targeting of certain Black drivers.
  • Where local Texas jurisdictions include an analysis of roadside searches and contraband findings in their annual racial profiling reports, the data shows that Black drivers are searched at a higher rate and contraband is found at a lower rate.3

Join us in making Texas a smart-on-crime state! Call your legislator and support TCJC today!

Relevant Bills:

Other Bills Related to Racial Profiling:

  • Bill Number: SB 1747 [Hinojosa]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the categories used to record the race or ethnicity of persons stopped for or convicted of traffic offenses.

Other Materials:

1 Baumgartener, Christiani and Roach, Analyzing Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops Statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety, September 2016. The data does not describe stops or searches of Hispanic drivers because they are not reliably identified.

2 Ibid.

3 Austin Police Department, Racial Profiling Report, 2010.