ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Highway Patrol troopers pulled over nearly 3 million drivers across the state over the last five years, according to new data obtained by News 6.
The compilation of traffic stops spanned from Jan. 1, 2016, to April 30, 2021, and it included all 67 Florida counties.
Lt. Kim Montes said the data was collected from the Traffic Stop Data Report (TSDR), which each trooper is required to complete after each traffic stop.
“There’s a lot of perception about racial profiling and traffic stops,” said Montes. “If there’s ever a complaint against a trooper, if there’s ever a complaint about an area, we’re able to pull that data back and look and see what is going on.”
Trooper Steve Montiero, News 6 Traffic Safety Expert and FHP reserve’s trooper, explains what is going on in his mind when he makes a traffic stop.
“I’m just seeing a traffic violation, and I’m stopping you,” Montiero said. “I am stopping a car. I’m not stopping a person. I don’t know who’s driving yet. That is always, ‘who am I stopping?’ It’s the mystery behind every traffic stop.”
According to the TSDR data, over the last five years 2,807,344 drivers have been pulled over for suspected violations.
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Fifty five percent of the traffic stops involved white drivers, 22% involved black drivers, 18% were Hispanic, 3% were Asian or Pacific Islander.
Those statistics slightly deviate from the latest Census breakdown of Florida residents, but the Office of the Inspector General dug deeper to see if the traffic stops showed any community-based racial bias.
The investigation resulted in three Jacksonville-area troopers being flagged for pulling over a high number Black drivers.
Data pulled from the OIG investigation showed more than half of the drivers they pulled over were black.
FHP leaders launched their own investigation, and they reported back that two of the troopers in question worked in the Contraband Interdiction Unit, which deals with illegal drug activities.
The leaders wrote, “troopers worked in an area with a high percentage of African American inhabitants when compared to surrounding locations.”
FHP leaders said they cleared the third trooper after a “random review” of 25 videos taken from pullovers, shot by his dash camera.
News 6 asked other law enforcement agencies throughout Central Florida, and none of them reported using separate software like FHP does to track potential trends.
Some said they rely on officers or deputies reporting to dispatch, while others said they track trends using citations or warning that were issued, leaving out traffic stops in which no ticket was issued.