This manuscript examines police officer decision making during automobile stops to determine whether Black and Hispanic drivers are searched at parity with nonminorities, with particular focus on officers’ legal authority to search and controlling for other explanatory factors. Using data collected by a large Midwestern police department, we observe Blacks are overrepresented among searches overall and among searches involving greater officer discretion to search. However, neither race nor ethnic effects were observed after introducing other explanatory variables into multivariate models, suggesting factors other than minority status provide greater understanding of officers’ decision making. Results indicate minorities are differentially involved in searches because police engage minorities under characteristics consistent with searches. This suggests that it is the social context of the stop, rather than the race or ethnicity of the driver, that primarily influences searches.
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