This empirical (survey) study of law enforcement officers aims to shed light on police conduct and knowledge concerning traffic stops, vehicle searches and the use of canine (K-9) units. This context is particularly relevant in light of a recent United States Supreme Court case in this area, Rodriguez v. United States, which held that when the mission of a routine traffic stop has been or reasonably should have been completed (i.e., the officer has issued a traffic ticket or a warning after having checked license, registration, insurance, and/ or warrants), the officer may not in general detain the vehicle occupant(s) while waiting for a police canine unit to arrive to perform a search, or “sniff,” for drugs or other contraband around the vehicle perimeter. No other known empirical study of police “line” officers’ performance and knowledge with regard to vehicle searches and canine units exists, and therefore this study fills a significant gap in the literature. The specific research questions this study aims to address are: (1): Whether officers with (A) exposure to training on vehicle stops and searches and/or (B) more years of experience in law enforcement, will have greater levels of proper knowledge concerning the holding, or ruling of Rodriguez v. United States?; and (2) Whether officers with (A) exposure to training on vehicle stops and searches and/or (B) more years of experience in law enforcement, will exhibit higher levels of proper performance, or conduct, regarding the ruling of Rodriguez v. United States? Using a logistic regression analysis, the study found, in part, that police officers with more than 5 years of experience in law enforcement show a lower percentage of proper performance related to Rodriguez vs. United States compared to officers with 5 years or less of experience. Accordingly, police officers’ years of experience have a negative, but statistically significant effect on proper performance related to the Rodriguez decision. Overall, the majority of police officers surveyed showed both proper knowledge of the principal holding of Rodriguez and proper performance that aligns with that holding, or rule. Nonetheless, sizeable minorities of officers failed to show proper knowledge or performance related to Rodriguez.
Christopher D. Totten, Gang Lee & Daniel Ozment,
Police Perceptions, Knowledge, and Performance: Traffic Stops and the Use of K-9 Units,
Cath. U. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.edu/lawreview/vol70/iss1/8