The purpose of this paper is to apply focal concerns theory as a theoretical explanation for police officer decision making during a traffic stop that results in a consent search. The study uses coefficients testing to better examine the issue of racial profiling through the use of a race-specific model.
The data for this study come from traffic stops conducted by the Louisville Police Department between January 1 and December 31, 2002.
The results show that the three components of focal concerns theory can explain police officer decision making for consent searches. Yet, the components of focal concerns theory play a greater role in stops of Caucasian male drivers.
The data for this study are cross-sectional and self-reported from police officers.
This paper shows the utility of applying focal concerns theory as a theoretical explanation for police officer decision making on consent searches and how the effects of focal concerns vary depending on driver race.
The findings based on focal concerns theory can provide an opportunity for police officers or departments to explain what factors impact the decision making during consent searches.
This is the first study (to the researchers’ knowledge) that examines the racial effects of focal concerns on traffic stop consent searchers using coefficients testing.
Vito, A.G., Grossi, E.L., Woodward Griffin, V. and Higgins, G.E. (2019), "Consent searches: understanding the role of race and what occurs during the traffic stop", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 42 No. 4, pp. 611-623. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-11-2018-0162
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