Traffic stops, race, and perceptions of fairness

Joselyne L. Chenane, Emily M. Wright, Chris L. Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Traffic stops are the most common reason for face-to-face encounters between police officers and citizens. Contact with police can affect citizens’ behaviour toward the police, particularly when citizens perceive unfair treatment by officers during these encounters. Yet, few studies have examined how experiencing a traffic stop affects citizens’ decisions to seek assistance from police or report non-crime emergencies. This study analysed data from the Police-Public Contact Survey (PPCS) to examine (a) the relationship between experiencing traffic stops and calling police for help and/or to report non-crime emergencies and (b) why perceptions of fairness and reasons for the traffic stop might affect these outcomes across different racial/ethnic categories. Results from multivariate logistic regression models show that citizens stopped for traffic violations are significantly less likely to seek help from the police and/or to report non-crime emergencies compared to those with other types of face-to-face police contacts. Additionally, those who perceived unfair treatment during traffic stops were less likely to report non-crime emergencies compared to those who felt the police treated them fairly. The effects of perception of fairness and the reason for a stop on reporting non-crime emergencies were significantly different among Hispanic citizens compared to White citizens. Policy implications of the results are discussed and recommendations for future research are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)720-737
Number of pages18
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2 2020


  • Traffic stops
  • non-crime emergencies
  • police officers
  • procedural justice
  • race/ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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