Who is FHP for? I-TEAM analyzes 5 years of road stop data
JACKSONVILLE, Florida – An I-TEAM analysis of five years of Florida Highway Patrol traffic stop data shows that the proportion of black driver stops in Northeast Florida and statewide is greater than their proportion in the general population.
After each traffic stop, soldiers with FHP complete a traffic stop data report, recording demographic information about the driver and the outcome of the stop. The data can be reviewed by a soldier’s supervisors, as well as others within the Highway Patrol.
Scroll down to see the data
In 2020, the FHP’s office of the inspector general conducted an audit to see if a particular breed of drivers stood out on state roads.
FHP Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan points out that soldiers often can’t even see the person behind the wheel, and instead focus on whether or not the driver is obeying the rules of the road.
âWe stop a violation, we stop the vehicle,â Bryan said. âIn most cases, we don’t know, or at this point, we can’t see who is driving the vehicle, when we see that the offense has occurred. “
The Inspector General’s study looked at data from a six-month period in 2019 for a sample of soldiers in each of the state’s troops, looking at the sex and race of the drivers arrested, as well as the characteristics of the soldier. The data was compared to census data for each soldier’s territory.
In Troop G – which covers nine counties in northeast Florida – the audit began with nine randomly selected soldiers.
âThe information provided in this audit, taken from the Traffic Stops Data Report, showed discrepancies in the traffic stops of three officers. These three officers were then taken a little closer, âsaid Bryan.
This closer examination revealed that two of the three soldiers in question were part of the Contraband Interdiction Unit, which deals with activities involving illegal drugs. Sgt. Bryan says unlike the soldiers on the road, the interdiction unit works from police intelligence and they’ve already identified the suspect before the traffic stopped.
âAnd sometimes we’re asked to make traffic stops on behalf of another agency,â Bryan said. âSpecific information, very detailed information, saying, ‘Hey, we need this car stopped. “”
FHP officials said the third soldier in question was exonerated following a “random review” of 25 videos taken from the soldier’s on-board camera. The soldiers said their investigation found there was no bias in the soldiers’ arrests.
After reviewing the Inspector General’s report, I-TEAM took a broader view of FHP traffic stop data. We examined more than 3 million stops from January 2016 to April 2021, both at the state level and within the G troop. The I-TEAM then compared the proportion of stops for drivers. white, black, Hispanic and Asian make up the overall makeup of each group. within the population, based on 2020 census data.
Statewide and in Northeast Florida, the proportion of black driver stops was higher than their population, while the proportion of stops for the other three groups was lower than their population.
Part of the Florida Highway Patrol’s use of traffic stop data reports is to ensure that the data is accurate. According to a July 2020 report from the Office of the Inspector General, a member of B-Troop, based in Lake City, was investigated for reporting false information in the reports.
The Inspector General supported allegations against the soldier, finding several traffic stops he had not entered into the system and other stops where he had not actually warned the driver even though he had registered that he had done. The soldier was fired for the actions, but resigned first.
Bryan said the findings of the state-wide Inspector General’s audit are a commitment to full transparency to the public regarding those arrested.
âIf you’re stopped by the Florida Highway Patrol, it’s not personal,â Bryan said. “It’s something we’ve noticed, a dangerous violation, and it’s the only thing we’re trying to fix.”
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