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Pa. troopers search Black, Hispanic drivers more

Plus, Mastriano rejected in bid to join Jewish caucus.


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Thursday, May 25, 2023
Police report, Mastriano denied, RGGI to SCOPA, $10M penalty, legal update, tax rebates, and Inquirer cyberattack claimed. Thanks for checking in.

Despite optional searches being more likely for Black and Hispanic drivers, contraband seizures from searches occurred more often for white drivers, according to a new report released this week that examined interactions between Pennsylvania State Troopers and motorists.

From Spotlight PA: 

The analysis, conducted by criminologist Robin Engel and a team of researchers at the National Policing Institute, found no disparity among racial and ethnic groups for warnings, citations and arrests statewide, but found State Police were slightly more likely to search Black and Hispanic drivers than white drivers during searches where the trooper initiated the investigation based on probable cause, reasonable suspicion or driver permission.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa. State troopers more likely to do optional searches for Black, Hispanic drivers than white ones.

THE CONTEXT: The study found that Black and Hispanic drivers were 1.9 and 1.3 times more likely to be subject to a discretionary search than white drivers, while troopers found contraband in 75.8% of cars with white drivers, 73.5% of cars with Black drivers, and 65.1% of cars with Hispanic drivers.

The disparities peaked in 2008 when Black and Hispanic drivers were 3.0 and 2.6 times more likely to be subject to a discretionary search. At a news conference on Tuesday, Engel said she is optimistic the numbers will continue to improve given their decline over time.

The analysis is the first in more than a decade after State Police ceased collecting traffic stop data in 2012 — a practice they resumed after this 2019 Spotlight PA investigation.

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"I was ... raised in Tampa Bay, but culturally my upbringing reflected the working-class communities in western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio — from weekly church attendance to the expectation that one would earn his keep. This made me God-fearing, hard-working, and America-loving."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who launched his GOP presidential campaign on Wednesday, touting his ties to must-win Pennsylvania in a prior address; DeSantis' dad is from Beaver County and his mother is from Ohio
» POLICING VS. TREATMENT: Join us TODAY at 6 p.m. ET for a free panel on how Pa. wants to spend a $1B opioid settlement, the policing versus treatment debate, and the way Pennsylvania's spending plans compare to other states'. Register here, send questions to events@spotlightpa.org

» ELDER LAW: Join us Thursday, June 1 at 6 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on Pennsylvania's elder protection laws and how they could be improved. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org
Ed G. shares: "A Memorial Day remembrance — a kousa dogwood in all her glory in York County." Have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
An American flag and dogwood tree in a yard as seen from a back deck.
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Thank you to the 287 people who have given so far, including Janice M., who said, "Spotlight offers me a reliable new source with professional journalists who provide, balanced and in-depth reporting." Join Janice & make a tax-deductible gift now » 
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.NO ENTRY: State Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny) cited state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin)'s 2022 bid for governor as the impetus for the creation of the first Pennsylvania Legislative Jewish Caucus. Then, Spotlight PA reports, Mastriano tried to join the group, leading to him being denied entry. The caucus "will not launder the dangerous antisemitism out of your past," read his emailed rejection.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.RGGI ARGUMENTS: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in a case with implications for a cornerstone of former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's climate change legacy. The court is weighing whether a lower court was right to block entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The AP reports the high court appeared split on the largest legal question surrounding the program.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.PLANT PENALTY: Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's administration says energy giant Shell has agreed to pay $10 million to resolve air quality violations at its petrochemical plant in Beaver County: "In total, communities in Western Pennsylvania will directly receive $6.2 million for projects to benefit the environment, health, and quality of life of the community near the facility because of the consent order and agreement."

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.ETHNIC INTIMIDATION: Pennsylvania's House Judiciary Committee has advanced bills adding sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other qualifiers to the state's ethnic intimidation law, Capital-Star reports. The bills, which still need to pass the full Dem-controlled state House and GOP-controlled state Senate, are on the move as authorities say the threat of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes is on the rise.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.REBATE RESCUE: A bill that would expand Pennsylvania's rent and property tax rebate to potentially include an additional 173,000 people moved one step closer to reality this week with unanimous 20-0 approval in the state House Finance Committee. Next stop: Consideration by the full chamber. Spotlight PA has the background on the program's decade of decline and the push to reverse it.

'CUBA GANG': A ransomware gang that the FBI says made $60 million off criminal activity as of August 2022 has claimed responsibility for this month's cyberattack on The Philadelphia Inquirer, per Bleeping Computer. 

BEAR ATTACK: The Pennsylvania Game Commission was still searching on Wednesday for the black bear they say attacked two children, non-fatally, in Luzerne County this week. Officials say the bear will be killed if caught.

'USE A CONDOM': If you've spotted a "Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea Alert!" billboard in Philadelphia, and like @Annie_Wu_22 wondered why, know that Philly's STD rate is especially high and "super-gonorrhea" is in the U.S.

SOMETHING NEW: Bisa Butler is a Jersey City artist making exquisite hip-hop and Black history-themed quilts like these, telling The Philadelphia Tribune: "My artwork is a remix of something old."

BOOK 'EM: Congrats to Harrisburg's Midtown Scholar Bookstore for being named Bookstore of the Year by Publishers Weekly. Co-owners Catherine Lawrence and former Mayor Eric Papenfuse accepted the honor.

Support Spotlight PA's vital investigative and public-service journalism and your gift will be DOUBLED.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Revisionist

Congrats to our daily winners: Al M., Jane R., Elaine C., Barbara F., Stacy S., Don H., Eric F., Carol S., Jon W., Kim C., Susan D., Dianne K., Becky C., Susan N.-Z., Dennis M., Kimberly D., David W., Wendy A., Jay H., Elizabeth W., John P., Lynne E., Vanessa J., Dan A., Joel S., and Jody A.
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