Mills Alumna Studies How Stress on Oakland Police Increases the Chance of Racial Profiling

Oakland, CA—December 19, 2017

An article recently published in Medium reports that the Oakland Police Department has vetted and accepted a study conducted by Meghan Hunt '17, who recently graduated with a master of public policy (MPP) from Mills College. The study details how police officers are more likely to stop African Americans when the officers are hungry, tired, or stressed. Hunt conducted the study, entitled “Working to Close the Gap: How Stress and Fatigue Impact Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops by Oakland Police,” for her master’s policy report, which requires Mills MPP candidates to serve as pro bono policy consultants to a local government or nonprofit client, helping them to develop policy solutions to a pressing community challenge.

Hunt analyzed over 10,000 officer-initiated traffic stops during a ten-month period in 2016 and discovered that “at times when police are likely stressed and fatigued, officers stop, search and handcuff African Americans at higher rates than people of other races,” reports Medium. The article notes that “Hunt connects her research to the growing body of evidence that people are less able to control their implicit biases and unconscious stereotypical thinking when they are stressed, hungry or fatigued.” Among other solutions, she recommends encouraging officers to take their meal breaks and focusing more on intelligence-based traffic stops that provide an “objective basis to pull someone over.”