Data on police stops can be examined to reflect on the relative “opacity” of these encounters and how aggregate patterns on the nature—not just the volume—of reported stops relate to public scrutiny of the police. We hypothesize that public scrutiny on police stops is positively related to the prevalence of opaque stop practices across dimensions of “intrusiveness,” “rationale,” and “setting” derived from agency records. We further argue that this relationship is influenced by neighborhood conditions in the form of concentrated disadvantage, residential instability, and heterogeneity. To develop these ideas, we draw on a publicly available NYPD dataset on police stops to specify a series of fixed and random effects models that describe variation in recorded stop practices across precincts (N = 74) and overtime (T = 7, 2007–2013). We relate these practices to neighborhood conditions derived from the Census and examine their association with rates of SQF complaints to the CCRB. Results show considerable variation in indicators of opacity, particularly across precincts. More importantly, we also find that rates of complaints are higher in precincts that have more vaguely defined, intrusive stops. Results also suggest that concentrated disadvantage is independently and positively related with higher rates of public scrutiny of the police.
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