That view emerged from interviews with 25 respondents, including about a dozen who were caught in a traffic stop when they were “driving under the influence,” as well as 10 people pulled over during a burglary investigation. Some 55 percent of drivers said they were pulled over because they were a suspected stolen car, while 28 percent said they were pulled over because they fit a description of a suspect. Respondents also described how they get pulled over: half said they are stopped because a driver and/or passenger said they look suspicious and fast-moving vehicles match a description provided by police, while another 25 percent said officers are pulled over “because a person is sitting in a car fast enough to trigger an alarm.” The remaining responses could not be described by author.
“When you look at those statistics, you realize that everyone is having a tough time and the attitudes of those who’ve been pulled over — a lot of them are feeling like they are living in a world that does not belong to them,” said Laura Ruiz, a leading national expert on policing and racial inequity. “Racist policing is not the main drivers of people who feel unsafe. Uncomfortable, illegal behaviors that are built on race — real and imagined — that are the underlying social drivers that are creating this feeling that police officers treat every single person equally.”
Ms. Ruiz co-authored “Race and Policing: Inside the Frightening Reality,” a book that examines the racial divide in law enforcement. She also testified at a recent Senate hearing on racial bias in law enforcement. But she said many people who feel pressured to carry cash in an era when fewer bankers are offering loans should take a broader look at the economic environment and the fact that black men are more likely to be stopped than whites.
“I know of at least one woman who is so frightened by being pulled over that she hides her purse,” Ms. Ruiz said. “You see men, too, who are hustling or hiding. It is not them being inherently racist. It is something that is so socially constructed that they have no idea they have this fear.”
She said race and ethnicity can be a scapegoat but if they are not understood then solutions will not be found.