Extant research on racial disparities in police contact has consistently demonstrated that African Americans are significantly more likely to be stopped by police officers than White Americans. Research on whether similar disparities exist in police contact with Hispanic Americans, however, is decidedly more mixed. In this paper we suggest that these inconsistencies may be attributable, in part, to officer misclassification of Hispanic Americans—specifically misclassification of Hispanic Americans as White American—leading to an underestimate of the frequency of police stops of Hispanic Americans. We apply a Bayesian algorithm for predicting individual ethnicity to a unique data set of police-citizen interactions that also contain the names of individuals stopped by police. Our results suggest that police officers frequently misclassify Hispanic Americans as White, and that misclassification may explain the failure of some analysis to identify disparities in police stops of Hispanic Americans. Implications for future research are discussed.
Ayobami Laniyonu is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto. Previously, he served as Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Policing Equity in New York City, where he worked with police departments across the United States on empirical analyses designed to identify and correct racial disparities in police contact and use of force.
His research interests include criminal justice reform, urban politics, and statistical methodologies, with a particular emphasis on spatial statistics. He is currently working on a series of projects that explore police use of force against the homeless and individuals with serious mental illness, the effect gentrification on eviction rates in large urban areas, and the effect of police violence on political behavior.
In past research, he has explored the relationship between gentrification and discriminatory policing practices, the effect of Stop and Frisk policing on voter turnout and candidate choice in New York City, and the political significance of a related type of policing in the United Kingdom, so called “Stop and Search” policing. He is also interested in comparing the attitudes, experiences, and politics of Afro-descendant people across national contexts.