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story.lead_photo.caption A DeSoto, Texas, police car on June 24, 2020. New research shows that Texas police are most likely to search Latino suspects, but it was searches of whites that turned up the most contraband. (Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/TNS)

AUSTIN — Latinos are the racial or ethnic group most likely to be searched by Texas police, according to new research that analyzes millions of traffic stops made in the state during 2020. But searches of white people turned up the most contraband.

The data analysis was conducted by the Texas A&M University Institute for Predictive Analytics in Criminal Justice. The institute, which launched in 2020, aims to advance research on criminal justice in Texas through data analysis and recommending evidence-based policies and practices.

White people, the state's largest racial demographic, accounted for the most stops by police, followed by Latinos and Black people.

Latinos accounted for the most searches, followed closely by white people, then Black people.

Most searches that turned up contraband were of white people.

However, of all the searches in which contraband was found, Latinos were arrested most frequently.

The analysis also found that Black people were disproportionately likely to be pulled over by police: While 12.9% of the Texas population is Black, 16.9% of stops involved a Black driver.

White people were also disproportionately pulled over: They accounted for 45.8% of stops, compared to the 41.2% of the state's population of the state they represent. Latino, Asian-American and American Indian drivers were stopped at a lower percentage than their representation in the Texas population.

Hit rates, a measurement commonly used to assess bias in police searches, show the rate at which contraband is found. If one group is searched more frequently but turns up the same number of "hits," their hit rate would be lower, suggesting officer bias against them.

The IPAC report found that Latinos had the lowest hit rate, suggesting police bias against them. Of Latinos found with contraband, 40.5% were arrested, compared to 37.8% of Black people and 32.7% of
white people.

"Our preliminary analysis revealed that about 120 of the agencies reported inconsistent data on race," the report reads. "Many other inconsistencies also were detected. Although more and more agencies are reporting data on racial profiling, no standard measure audits the accuracy. The conclusions drawn from this report cannot be interpreted with full confidence until the data is guaranteed to be accurate."

The data that was analyzed was released by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement under the Sandra Bland Act, which was passed by Texas legislators in 2017.

The legislation seeks to protect individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues from police mistreatment, strengthen racial profiling laws and collect accurate data on traffic stops.

It was named after Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old Black woman who was pulled over in Waller County by an officer for a minor traffic violation, subsequently arrested and found dead in her jail cell.

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