While “reactive policing” is defined by the response to crimes or calls-for-service, “proactive policing” refers to the strategic approach of preventing crimes before they occur.1 In principle, this latter approach emphasizes the identification and targeting of underlying forces that may be driving crime.
Traffic stops are one of the most common interactions that members of the public have with police officers.2 While the promise of proactive policing aims to protect communities, recent studies show that the efficacy of traffic stops in reducing crime is unclear.3 Some research suggests that traffic stops are disproportionately affecting people of color or lower socioeconomic backgrounds; others emphasize that efficacy can only be measured in very specific locales, as data collection on traffic stops is inconsistent, if not missing, from many agencies whose states do not require them.4
At Mark43, we view our customers as our partners. We recognize that agencies and larger governing bodies can only make thoughtful decisions on improving proactive policing outcomes by being equipped with accurate data that sheds light on the strengths and weaknesses of current practices. We also acknowledge that law enforcement officers in the field already face barriers to collecting such information: officers can be dispatched from one event to another without much time in between for thorough documentation, and when some states do not have clear stop data collection requirements, it’s ambiguous as to what information the officers should even collect.
With these considerations, we’ve built a new way for agencies to comprehensively and flexibly collect traffic stop data. Mark43 reports are composed of “cards” that collect specific information — an offense card, for example, collects information on the specific offense that has occurred, such as the associated NIBRS offense code, any persons involved, and types of weapons found. Our new stop card similarly collects information only related to traffic stops, such as the exact circumstances of and reasons for the stop, information on the demographics of the subject, and whether any property that was found or seized. The fields that we’ve added to this card are based on information that was consistently mandated from various states with stop data collection requirements.
In research, we also found that agencies have starkly different workflows: some want to collect stop information only in specific circumstances, such as when the subject of the stop is the driver of the vehicle, while others want to collect this data for any generic stop and have it be included in their most frequently written reports. We, therefore, brought configurability to the forefront of the stop card’s functionality. The stop card can be added to any default Mark43 report or in a new standalone report, so the collection of this critical information is not disruptive to existing workflows. Fields on the card can be renamed based on agency-specific terminology, and report rules that require certain fields to be filled out on the report before submission can be enabled or disabled based on state requirements. Even with exporting this data, Mark43 supports both PDF print-outs and analytics reports for internal record keeping and analysis.
With the new stop card, we hope to provide a way for officers and agencies to collect critical stop information in the way that makes the most sense for them, whether their state requires it or not. As we work with our customers to continuously improve this feature, we look forward to empowering our users to make data-driven decisions on how traffic stops can be most effectively implemented.
- Paul A. Haskins, “Research Will Shape the Future of Proactive Policing,” October 24, 2019, https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/research-will-shape-future-proactive-policing
- Policing Project at NYU School of Law, “It’s Time to Start Collecting Stop Data,” September 30, 2019, https://www.policingproject.org/news-main/2019/9/27/its-time-to-start-collecting-stop-data-a-case-for-comprehensive-statewide-legislation
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2018
- Pierson, E., Simoiu, C., Overgoor, J. et al. “A large-scale analysis of racial disparities in police stops across the United States.” Nat Hum Behav 4, 736–745 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0858-1; Policing Project at NYU School of Law, “It’s Time to Start Collecting Stop Data”