Reporting by KXAN provides another glimpse into the limits of regulation through transparency, i.e. the forcing of data reporting. Texas has a commendable law requiring law enforcement agencies to collect "information relating to motor vehicle stops in which a citation is issued and to arrests made as a result of those stops," including the "race or ethnicity of the individual detained" and "whether the . . . officer knew" the race or ethnicity before the stop. (Criminal Procedure Code Article 2.132(a)(6).) Reporting, in turn, allows researchers (like co-blogger Amanda Woog) and advocates to hold agencies' feet to the fire when the data reveals racially skewed enforcement.
In theory. But KXAN's review of reports generated by DPS troopers revealed that minority drivers are frequently documented as "white." The article includes photographs and interviews with some of these folks, bearing out the claim that while there might be instances of racial ambiguity, at least some number of these errors are not so easily explained. And as my University of Texas colleague Ranjana Natarajan observed in the article, accidental misattribution is certainly possible, but large numbers of misattribution point toward a more systemic or intentional dynamic at work. Interestingly, a DPS official response to the KXAN report blames the available fields in the computer information systems used to document the stops - in particular, the absence of "Hispanic" as an option for describing the "race" of an individual. IMHO it's a little lame that DPS is only now realizing the implications of that limitation. But it's worth observing that this is actually a problem with law enforcement information systems nationwide, and that many researchers believe that this simple issue - the widespread absence of a Hispanic "race" box leading to attribution as "white" - creates a widespread systemic skew in our empirical portrait of Hispanics and the criminal justice system.
To make an entirely duh point, if people of color are routinely being documented as white, the regulatory dynamic breaks down. Garbage in, garbage out. Glad to see from the linked article that the legislature, including sponsors of the racial profiling legislation, are pressing DPS. If it's a computer systems problem, surely the legislature can kick some money DPS's way to add a new check box and train their officers to use it. Although I don't view body cameras as a panacea, here's a place where recording of stops would make feasible supervisory spot-checking of the field officers' reporting.