A recent analysis of Massachusetts traffic stop data reveals persistent and widespread discrepancies in how often police ticket white drivers and drivers of color.
The data, which includes all traffic stops between 2014 and 2022, was acquired and analyzed as part of an investigation by the USA Today Network. USA Today brought on Matthew Ross, an associate professor of public policy and economics at Northeastern, to assist with analyzing the data, given his experience doing similar work in other states.
In addition to the investigative stories published by the the USA Today Network, Ross produced his own analysis of the data. He says the results are clear: The data shows “fairly large and persistent disparities” between how often Massachusetts police stop white drivers and, specifically, Black and Hispanic drivers.
Ross’ report, funded by the Community to Community Impact Accelerator, found that there is a 2% increase in the probability that a Black/African American driver is stopped during the day, a 6% increase for Hispanic/Latinx drivers and 3% for all minorities. According to Ross, that means Massachusetts police excessively stopped as many as 11,564 and 33,543 Black and Hispanic drivers, respectively, between 2014 and 2022, or 1,284 and 3,727 per year.
“In relative terms that might sound small, but, having done this in a number of other states across the country, it’s pretty in line with what we tend to estimate when we find disparities in policing,” Ross says. “This is pretty consistent with race-based traffic enforcement.”
Those numbers are further complicated by what the USA Today Network found in its investigation of the data: Massachusetts police have consistently mislabeled men with Hispanic last names as white on traffic citations. Between 2014 and 2020, in 28% of traffic stops statewide, police identified drivers with Hispanic surnames as white, according to the news organization’s investigation. This practice skews the data, potentially obfuscating further bias in policing throughout the state, the USA Today Network reports.
Ross used what is called a solar visibility analysis and Veil of Darkness test, an approach that compares traffic stops made in daylight to stops made when it’s dark outside, inside what the so-called “veil of darkness.”
Why? As Ross’ analysis concludes: “the relatively large and persistent disparity suggests that Massachusetts police are more likely to stop a person of color during periods when they can more easily discern their race/ethnicity. The conventional interpretation of these results is that it is indicative of potential discrimination by Massachusetts police against motorists of color.”
Using that method, Ross was able to identify 33 individual police agencies that were more likely to have stopped a person of color in daylight relative to darkness and where that disparity was estimated with a high confidence level. Of those 33 agencies, 11 were in the Massachusetts State Police and 22 were from various municipal police forces.
However, what is just as significant as the numbers in this data is the fact that it was released at all, Ross adds.
In 2004, experts in Northeastern’s Institute on Race and Justice released a racial and gender profiling analysis of Massachusetts traffic stop data from 2001 to 2003. However, the state didn’t conduct another study until 2022, and even then it was limited in its scope and findings, Ross says.
The state also used a Veil of Darkness test in its analysis, but the 2022 report, ultimately, found that nonwhite drivers were 36% less likely to be stopped during the day than at night. Ross’ own analysis directly contradicts these findings.
“I pretty clearly identified disparities across all policing agencies in Massachusetts from 2014 to 2022, and I identified 33 individual agencies,” Ross says. “This public report that came out from [the state] last year basically said neither of those things was true.”
As an expert in the field, Ross wasn’t even sure Massachusetts had been collecting traffic stop data until USA Today Network reporters reached out to him and showed him years’ worth of data acquired through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Having done similar work in states like Connecticut and Rhode Island, Ross says Massachusetts agencies’ refusal to make this data publicly accessible is not the norm.
“In my experience, the policing data [in Massachusetts] is under much more strict lock and key than any other jurisdiction I’ve dealt with,” Ross says.
Ross notes there is one important caveat: The data only includes traffic stops that ended with tickets, not warning stops. Massachusetts collected this data when the 2004 report was released, but, as far as Ross and other experts know, there’s no longer any comprehensive tracking of undocumented warning stops in the state.
It could mean the disparities in how Massachusetts police stop drivers of color are even higher.
“In Connecticut and Rhode Island, which are relatively comparable to Massachusetts, the volume of warnings is almost 50/50 to tickets in some years,” Ross says. “So, there’s a ton of stops you can’t even necessarily assess. … It’s actually probably true that [these numbers are] too small, and if you had the warnings data, it’s potentially much larger.”
Cody Mello-Klein is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on X/Twitter @Proelectioneer.
After complaints, speed limit reduced on stretch of Massachusetts Ave. in Md. – WTOP News
The speed limit has been reduced from 35 mph to 30 mph along a busy stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in Maryland between Sangamore Road and Westmoreland Circle.
The speed limit has been reduced from 35 mph to 30 mph along a busy stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in Montgomery County, Maryland, between Sangamore Road and Westmoreland Circle.
Erich Florence, deputy district engineer for the Maryland State Highway Administration’s District 3 office, told WTOP the change came after a review of speeding patterns and years of complaints about speeding along the four-lane stretch of the road.
The X account Cordell Traffic was the first to report the change in speed limit.
The agency, Florence said, initiated a study of the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in 2019, but the pandemic delayed any changes. It launched a spot-speed study, in which engineers used radar guns or speed strips to determine speeding patterns in both directions.
Then, the agency used the 85th percentile, which Florence said is the most popular speed, to determine what changes in speed limits should be made.
Changes are generally made in increments of 5 mph, Florence said. It’s rare for there to be a 10 mph change, whether it be an increase or decrease.
“A lot of this feedback we received was just basically speeding,” Florence said. “Speeding because we have several schools in the area, several businesses, we have several marked crossings.”
Over the last three years, Florence said many people have been using the agency’s online feedback system to complain about speeding along the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in Maryland.
Since the speed limit was changed, which Florence said happened within the last month, the agency hasn’t received any feedback. However, he said the speed limit has been changed with success on other major roadways, such as Georgia Avenue.
The agency often uses what it calls a “post-study analysis” to determine whether a speed limit change is altering driving behaviors, Florence said.
“We make sure the speed limit matches the character and the type of the roadway,” Florence said.
Elizabeth Dietel, who lives nearby, said she and her neighbors had been advocating for a change to the speed limit for several years, with little success. But when a new neighbor, who walked her kids to local day cares, recently expressed similar concerns, she started the process of calling for a change again.
Many drivers, Dietel said, speed up when driving down the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue.
“My street is the first street after the circle, and I have to make a left turn to get to my house,” Dietel said. “I’m surprised I haven’t been rear-ended, because cars come zooming around and switch lanes to avoid me. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
There’s heavy traffic during the morning and evening rush hours, Dietel said.
“I don’t know whether [the speed limit change] is going to help, but it’s a start,” she said.
Massachusetts budget approval allows utilities to recoup added cost of hydropower corridor
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A budget signed by Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey this week will allow utilities to raise rates to make up for hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs to complete a transmission line to bring Canadian hydropower to the New England electricity grid.
The head of Central Maine Power Co.’s corporate parent Avangrid has said the cost of the $1 billion project grew to $1.5 billion as litigation delayed construction and inflation caused prices to creep upward.
Legislation included the supplemental budget adopted Monday allows transmission service agreements to be renegotiated and additional costs to be passed along to Massachusetts ratepayers to cover the added costs.
Avangrid provided the increased costs to Massachusetts’ electricity distribution companies to adjust the rate in the parties’ transmission services agreements, which would be subject to Department of Public Utilities review and approval, Avangrid spokesperson Leo Rosales said in a statement Tuesday.
He praised Healey and lawmakers for taking action to “deliver this critical project and needed clean power to benefit the entire New England region.”
Avangrid partnered with Hydro-Quebec on the New England Clean Energy Connect to supply 1,200 megawatts of hydropower to meet green energy goals in Massachusetts. That would be enough electricity to power about a million homes.
The 145-mile (233-kilometer) transmission line will stretch from Lewiston, Maine, to the Canadian border.
It received all regulatory approvals but was plagued by delays, litigation and a referendum in which https://apnews.com/article/election-2021-maine-hydropower-line-54dea1a948e9fc57a667280707cddeb7
It was allowed to move forward after a Maine jury concluded that the developers had a constitutional right to proceed despite the referendum.
Construction resumed in August on a transmission hub that’s critical to the project in Lewiston. But it’s unclear when other work will restart.
Workers had already begun removing trees and setting utility poles on a disputed portion of the project, a new 53-mile (85-kilometer) section cut through the woods in western Maine, before the project was put on hold.
The project was envisioned to meet Massachusetts’ clean energy goals, and the cost is fully borne by ratepayers in that state.
However, supporters say electricity would lower energy costs across New England as well as reduce carbon pollution.
Three Massachusetts hospitals ranked among best in US for maternity care
BOSTON – Three Massachusetts hospitals rank among the best in the country for maternity care, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The magazine gave a “high performance” ranking to Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.
How U.S. News determined the best maternity hospitals
Hospitals were ranked in a number of categories, including cesarean section rates, newborn complications and breast milk feeding rates.
U.S. News collected data from 680 hospitals, and determined 311 are “deserving of recognition for offering high quality maternity care.” The ranking focused on “uncomplicated” pregnancies, as opposed to those that are high-risk.
The magazine provided maternity scorecards for Mass General, Beth Israel and UMass Memorial. Beth Israel stood out for being “excellent at minimizing avoidable C-sections.” And at UMass Memorial, reported newborn complications were the rarest among the three.
Click here to see the other Massachusetts hospitals evaluated for maternity care.
Boston-area hospitals have long been recognized among America’s best. Mass General and Brigham and Women’s Hospital made the U.S. News “Best Hospitals Honor Roll” earlier this summer. And in June, the magazine named Boston Children’s Hospitalfor pediatric care.
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