Activist movements and the recent focus in the media on how police interact with citizens of different races has helped engage Americans in an important conversation about how law enforcement works. Study after study has found that non-white drivers are more likely to be stopped and arrested than whites. A closer look at some hard-to-come-by statistics—from Selby's work with Texas law enforcement agencies, and from data he obtained through public records requests of the Texas Department of Public Safety—shows that the problem is not necessarily an issue of racist cops—which means fixing the criminal justice system isn’t just an issue of addressing racism in uniform.
Police detective and use-of-force data expert Nick Selby offers an overview of his study on traffic-stop data in Texas, which found evidence that the state targeted low-income residents for heightened scrutiny and penalties. Because black and Latino Texans are disproportionately poor, these policies hit them harder, but because of the way Texas tracks such data, the unfair effects of the laws were hidden by what looked on the surface like bad police work. Nick found that some racial disparities in treatment by authorities actually appear to be the result of state laws intended to crack down on offenses like drunk driving and scofflaws but have, instead, had the effect of ensnaring poor people in a revolving door of debt, courts, collections firms, and the police.