Do Female Officers Police Differently? Evidence from Traffic Stops

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Political scientists have increasingly begun to study how citizen characteristics shape whether—and how—they interact with the police. Less is known about how officer characteristics shape these interactions. In this article, we examine how one officer characteristic—officer sex—shapes the nature of police-initiated contact with citizens. Drawing on literature from multiple fields, we develop and test a set of competing expectations. Using over four million traffic stops made by the Florida State Highway Patrol and Charlotte (North Carolina) Police Department, we find that female officers are less likely to search drivers than men on the force. Despite these lower search rates, when female officers do conduct a search, they are more likely to find contraband and they confiscate the same net amount of contraband as male officers. These results indicate that female officers are able to minimize the number of negative interactions with citizens without losses in effectiveness.




Shoub, K., Stauffer, K. E., & Song, M. (2021). Do Female Officers Police Differently? Evidence from Traffic Stops. American Journal of Political Science, 65(3), 755–769.

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