Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $702,956)
In recent decades, a considerable improvement in the quality of policing in the United States and other developed countries has been achieved. Police in the 21st century are more successful in fighting crime, better educated, more professional, and less likely to engage in misconduct compared to the previous generation of officers. Despite the behavioral and technological improvements in policing that we have seen in this century, police-community relations are still strained due to unfair, discriminatory, and disrespectful police practices. Policing is in the spotlight following the death of George Floyd, and the public’s expectations regarding police accountability and transparency are higher than ever.
Stockton University together with its partners, the Atlantic City Police Department (ACPD) and the Pleasantville Police Department (PPD) will conduct a rigorous and systematic randomized controlled trial in Atlantic City and Pleasantville City, New Jersey to evaluate whether incorporating elements of procedural justice into traffic stops and providing body-worn camera footage access to citizens stopped by the police enhance citizens’ trust in police, stimulate compliance, and change the attitudes of citizens towards police. Drivers and pedestrians who are stopped by the ACPD officers for traffic violations will be randomly assigned to either the control or the treatment group. The randomization process will assign a total of 1100 drivers and pedestrians to the treatment group (enhanced procedural justice protocol), and 900 drivers and pedestrians to the control group (typical encounter without any intervention). A total of 2000 traffic stops will be conducted by the partner agencies. The selection of experimental/control conditions will be guided by a random drawing from a shuffled pack of index cards.
The enhanced strategy will extend the existing procedural justice practices by offering data evidence to justify stops, making video evidence accessible to the public, and incorporating a statement to existing traffic stop protocols to inform citizens that their interaction is being recorded and can be viewed through a website. Following the police-citizen encounter, drivers will be asked whether they are willing to volunteer to answer a brief questionnaire (approximately thirty-likert-scale items and key demographics).
This study will generate new ideas for practitioners on expanding the application of procedural justice during traffic stops. We anticipate this new intervention will help police departments reformulate policy pertaining to citizen-police interaction during a traffic stop. We also envision that evaluating the impact of procedural justice training for police officers and the implementation of enhanced procedurally just traffic stop protocols will mitigate the declining trust between the police and the community while also contributing to research regarding police training, citizen interaction protocols, and community relations. CA/NCF