Consent searches

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) has put out its 2007 report on Law Enforcement and Racial Profiling (PDF), with all the data you could want about who gets subjected to consent searches (i.e., searches by police where there is no probable cause to suspect a crime; the officer requests permission to do the search, usually of a motor vehicle, hence the name) and how often they occur. From the executive summary:

Texas’ racial profiling law (S.B. 1074, passed in 2001) requires every Texas law enforcement agency to annually create a report on the race of individuals they stop and search and submit it to their local governing body. Because no central repository was written into the law to collect and analyze the data on a statewide level, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) has served since the inaugural year of data reporting as the sole statewide repository and analyst of required, annual racial profiling reports from Texas law enforcement agencies. In this role, TCJC obtains valuable feedback from law enforcement and community members and has assisted agencies in understanding their data, streamlining their reporting practices, and improving the way they protect the public through the implementation of needed policy changes. We also offer technical assistance to agencies regarding the requirements of the law.

To obtain the pool of agencies analyzed in this report, TCJC sent open records requests to 1,074 law enforcement agencies in October, 2006; we requested a copy of each agency’s racial profiling report containing racial profiling data for calendar year 2005, as well as the racial profiling policy in use by each agency during 2005. Of agencies that responded with usable information prior to the data analysis process, 221 agencies issued 3,000 or more citations, accounting for 4.9 million stops. Though in some ways 3,000 is an arbitrary number, we chose these 221 agencies to avoid small samples that were not statistically significant.


We determined that some law enforcement agencies continue to have problems complying with the data collection and reporting requirements of Texas’ racial profiling law. Law enforcement, the public, and key stakeholders need a more comprehensive picture of what is happening at Texas traffic stops in order to create better community policing models.

As the sole statewide repository of Texas racial profiling reports, TCJC is well positioned to offer recommendations about what works – and what doesn’t work – when it comes to the data collection and reporting provisions of Texas’ racial profiling law. As such, throughout the pages of this report we have suggested solutions to the problems facing law enforcement as they undergo data collection and reporting processes, as well as recommendations related to other provisions within the law.

Grits, who was a coauthor, has more.

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One Response to Consent searches

  1. Not a co-author this year, though I was in years past. I did give it a pre-publication edit. Molly Totman, who compiled the data and wrote the report, is a friend of mine whose work I admire a lot, so it’s definitely a small-world situation.

    BTW, why do your comments never “Remember pesonal info” as promised when I check the box? Just curious, no biggee. 🙂 best,

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