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NCJ Number: 222530 Find in a Library
Title: Critique of the "Outcome Test" in Racial Profiling Research
Journal: Justice Quarterly  Volume:25  Issue:1  Dated:March 2008  Pages:1-36
Author(s): Robin S. Engel
Date Published: March 2008
Page Count: 36
Type: Program/Project Evaluation
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper critiques the "outcome test" as a technique for determining whether or not police are engaged in racial and ethnic discrimination in their search and seizure practices.
Abstract: The outcome test presumes to identify racial and ethnic discrimination by examining differential outcomes in search success rates, i.e., the rate at which searches produce evidence of a link between a particular suspect and a crime. Its advocates argue that it is the only method currently available that can distinguish between purposeful discrimination by police based on racial bigotry and police decisionmaking based on probable cause that a given suspect has engaged in criminal behavior, regardless of his/her race/ethnicity. This paper argues that the underlying assumptions of the outcome test are not valid; consequently, it should not be used to assess whether or not the officers in a police agency are engaged in racial profiling. The outcome test fails as a valid test of officer racial bigotry in his/her stop/search decisionmaking, because it cannot capture and measure all of the possible factors related to driver or pedestrian characteristics and the factors that motivated an officer to make a given stop/search. The data currently available on police stop/search decisions make it virtually impossible to determine accurately why an officer made a stop/search, regardless of its outcome. This failure holds not only for the outcome test but also for the other statistical techniques being used to determine whether police practice racial bias in their stop/search decisions. Still, the outcome test can be helpful in determining whether racial/ethnic disparities exist in stop/searches based on whether the rate of "hits" for evidence of a crime are low for certain racial/ethnic groups compared to "hits" for White suspects. 1 table and 33 references
Main Term(s): Profiling; Testing and measurement; Vehicle stops
Index Term(s): Police discretion; Police policies and procedures; Racial discrimination; Search and seizure; Stop and frisk
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