Black Drivers Disproportionately Pulled Over in Suffolk County—It’s Not About Public Safety

For Immediate Release: June 27th,2022 Media Contact: Nico MacDonald,, 718.210.8432

June 27, 2022—Today, the Vera Institute of Justice released “An Analysis of Racial Disparities in Police Traffic Stops in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, from 2010 to 2019.” Vera’s analysis found that non-traffic-safety stops—where police stop and detain people for minor traffic violations—are increasing racial disparities in traffic enforcement. The report shares other findings and proposed solutions to prohibit or deter these stops.

Vera partnered with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office from July 2020 to March 2022 to study racial disparities. The report covers 10 years of traffic stop and criminal case data from Suffolk County. There are two key findings of the report:

  • Black drivers are disproportionately pulled over by law enforcement in Suffolk County for non-traffic-safety offenses. Police disproportionately stopped Black drivers in Suffolk County for non-traffic-safety reasons at 2.3 times the rate of white drivers.
    • In some parts of Suffolk County, the disparity was as high as 3.8 times (for Boston) and 8.9 times (for Winthrop) the rate of white drivers.
  • Non-traffic-safety stops in Suffolk County are increasing racial disparities. There are 150 non-traffic-safety vehicle violations in Massachusetts law. Of these, Vera’s analysis showed that 15 violations were responsible for 46 percent of the racial disparity in Suffolk County’s non-traffic-safety stops. If the legislature eliminated these 15 violations from police enforcement, it could cut racial disparities nearly in half.

Police pull over more than 20 million drivers every year making traffic stops the most common police-civilian interaction in the United States. The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 spurred a national reckoning about the ways in which Black people are treated by law enforcement. Some elected officials, prosecutors, and police have acknowledged their responsibility to examine racial disparities and inequities.

“Banning non-traffic-safety stops supports public safety, reduces racial disparities, and decreases the chances of yet another driver, passenger, or police officer being injured or killed during a traffic stop,” said Akhi Johnson, director, Reshaping Prosecution at Vera Institute of Justice. “Massachusetts can join other states in taking steps to improve safety by reducing harms caused by unnecessary and discriminatory traffic stops.”

These findings are an important contrast to a recent study by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which analyzed police traffic stops in the commonwealth. The 415-page report, concluded that there was “no support…for a pattern of racial disparity” in traffic stops. Yet the state’s analysis overlooked several key findings. Not only were Black drivers disproportionately pulled over by police, but white drivers were also less likely to be searched, criminally cited, or arrested than Black and Hispanic drivers.

“Vera’s findings back up what local community members have long known, traffic stops are a major source of racial profiling, do not improve traffic safety, and harm Black and brown people daily,” said Fatema Ahmad, executive director, Muslim Justice League. “It is imperative that Suffolk County and Boston start taking steps to remove law enforcement from traffic safety.”

"We know that traffic safety is achievable without police enforcement. Vera’s findings reinforce the stark reality of how many laws are enforced in the name of traffic stops often have nothing to do with keeping people safe on our roads,” said Catherine Gleason, public policy manager of LivableStreets Alliance. “Banning non-traffic-safety related stops is a clear step toward dismantling the discriminatory role law enforcement plays in traffic safety."

Vera’s findings are supported by study after study that show that Black drivers are more likely to be pulled over than other drivers, particularly for minor traffic infractions. A study of nearly 100 million traffic stops across the country found that Black and Hispanic drivers were searched for drugs and weapons more than white drivers, despite white drivers being just as likely as Black drivers to be found with this type of contraband.

Read Vera’s full report at

About the Vera Institute of Justice

The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and policy experts working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit