Racial profiling traffic “study” stirring up stupidity again

For the life of me, I can not figure out why a review of traffic stop statistics could provide race-baiters with solid information showing cops are “illegally” racial profiling. Oh wait, I know. They can use the statistics collected – no matter how valid they are – to show a “disparity” they can use in a headline.

Connecticut put together a Racial Profiling Advisory Board that released its full report yesterday with a collection of break-downs. Law enforcement was required to collect racial, ethnic and gender data for every traffic stop. “Civil rights” advocates want to use this data to show – as an example – that although a specified group represents 4 percent of Connecticut’s population, they represent 8 percent of the total traffic stops. In their minds, that would prove an endemic racial profiling “problem” in Connecticut law enforcement that must be corrected.

There is a huge problem here. It assumes drivers of different races/ethnicity/gender will break the law and follow the law equally. So in other words, civil rights advocates think if 14 percent of white people have a broken tail light, that means 14 percent of black people have a broken tail light. To think otherwise would be racist.

Come now. That’s pure ridiculousness.

From The Hartford Courant yesterday.

Data compiled by the task force from October 2013 through May 2014 shows Connecticut police made about 370,000 traffic stops during that period. Even though blacks make up only 7.9 percent of the state population, they accounted for more than 14 percent of traffic stops. Hispanics, which are now 9.7 percent of this state’s population, made up 11.8 percent of all traffic stops.

Cars driven by whites that were searched accounted for only 2.65 percent of all traffic stops, but vehicles driven by blacks that police searched made up 5.7 percent of all stops, and Hispanics were searched 5.37 percent of the time.

“Profiling – is it true? I would have to say yes,” the chairman of the task force, former state Rep. William R. Dyson, said Thursday. Dyson said the perception that minorities are being subjected to racial profiling by police in this state “is close to reality.”

Dyson is pandering to the civil rights crowd. There are hundreds of variables involved when a cop makes a decision to initiate a traffic stop. One of those variables – as an example – might be more related to income instead of race, ethnicity or gender. An older 2001 SUV like my own would certainly be more likely to have a broken tail light than a new SUV would it not?

There is another huge problem with the lefty civil rights crowd using this data to show police are profiling. They are assuming the cop knows the race, ethnicity or gender of the driver before they initiate the stop. Again, a totally invalid assumption … but since that assumption helps to bolster their narrative, we get racially charged statements from Connecticut’s ACLU legal director, Sandy Staub.

Police are assuming criminality or contraband based on the color of a driver’s skin…

The ACLU has an agenda. They are using this bogus report to bolster their agenda. It’s right out of the liberal playbook. Ann Coulter posted a timely article on Sept. 3.

Such meaningless studies are popular on the left, where it is assumed that people of different races, genders and ethnicities will always behave identically in all respects.

If fewer women pass the physical test to become firefighters, that can only be because of sexism. If fewer blacks pass the written test — that’s racism. If fewer whites play professional basketball — no, forget that one. Sports are important. (Unlike arson or vehicular homicide.)

So is there a way to implement a study to see if law enforcement is racially profiling? I would say it’s difficult, but not impossible.

The first thing we’d have to do is eliminate the left’s assumption different racial, ethnic and gender groups “break laws” at the same rate. To examine statistics assuming whites, asians, blacks and hispanics – as an example – commit any crime or break any law at the same per-capita rate is just stupid. Even if you don’t think it’s stupid, it’s the valid way to start this study.

The second thing we’d have to do – now that we’ve accepted members of different groups might break the law at different rates – is find a way to measure how many people are breaking the law without using data from traffic stops or arrest records. After all, you’re not pulled over for a traffic stop every time you have a moving or equipment violation. There are only so many cops out there.

Oh look, Coulter reminds us the State of New Jersey commissioned a study to do just what we need back in 2000, and the federal government tried to suppress it. From the New York Times back on March 21, 2002, with my emphasis.

Justice Department officials say they have such serious questions about the methods used to gather the data that they have asked New Jersey’s attorney general not to release the findings. It is not clear whether they will be made public.

The study involved photographing tens of thousands of drivers on the turnpike last spring while clocking speed with a radar gun. It found that black drivers sped much more than other drivers, according to three people who have reviewed the unreleased report. The racial gap was far wider than officials had expected and, in the politically charged controversies over profiling, the data could be used by defenders of the state police to argue that one reason black drivers are stopped more often than whites is that they are more likely to speed.

Whoops.

A week later, the report was released. From CNN, with my emphasis. (It’s important to note here that the people who were “scoring” the photos to determine race, ethnicity and gender did so without knowing whether the driver was speeding or not.)

According to the study findings, in the 65 mph zone where motorists enter the turnpike from Pennsylvania, drivers identified as African-American were 64 percent more likely to be speeding than those of similar age and sex who were identified as white.

About 4,100 of the 26,334 drivers in the study were identified as African-American.

Hispanics were not significantly different from white drivers, but those classified as “other” were 18 percent more likely to speed, the study showed.

The study found that drivers younger than 45 were more than three times more likely to speed, and men were more likely to speed than women.

In the 55 mph speed zone in the northern end of the turnpike, which is more urban, there was no statistically reliable difference found between African-American and white drivers, the study found.

The study, which was done between March and June 2001, matched photographs of drivers taken by special cameras with radar-gun readings of their speed along 14 locations on the turnpike.

Three people scored each picture independently, and made a decision on ethnicity. At least two evaluators agreed on 26,334 of the drivers, said Robert Voas, senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

The ethnic makeup was nearly identical to a study done a year earlier in which motorists identified their own ethnic makeup, he said.

I’ve been sitting here trying to locate the actual study, and even with my pretty good “Google fu,” I’m unable to locate it. (Surprise huh?) I do know that it exists, as it is referenced at the New Jersey National Criminal Justice Reference Service website. (This is an official government site.) Here is the abstract, again with my emphasis.

Prior studies have often measured racial profiling by comparing the racial and ethnic distribution from police stop rates to race and ethnicity data obtained from regional census counts. A more appropriate strategy for producing benchmark values, however, may be to determine the population of drivers or the population of traffic violators. In taking this approach, the current study surveyed drivers at tollbooths along the entire stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike to obtain self-reports of race and ethnicity (n=4,039). For drivers who refused to provide self-reports, race and ethnicity were based on researchers’ observations, bringing the total number of drivers in the study to 4,656. Based on tollbooth locations, racial and ethnic representativeness were estimated for different sections of the Turnpike. A Turnpike Speed Survey was also conducted to determine the racial and ethnic characteristics of speeders on the Turnpike. This was done by measuring speeds of a sample of vehicles on the Turnpike while capturing high-resolution photographs of the drivers. Trained coders examined each photograph to determine the race or ethnicity of the driver. Vehicles speeds were used to determine whether the driver was a speeder or nonspeeder. Benchmark values from these two studies were then compared to police stops by State troopers who patrolled the Turnpike. The results showed that the racial composition of speeders differed from nonspeeding drivers and closely approximated the racial composition of police stops. The proportion of speeders identified as Black reflected the proportion of Black drivers stopped by police. 7 tables, 1 figure, 16 references, and appended supplementary data.

The full report seems to be available behind a pay wall within Justice Quarterly, Volume 22, Issue 2 dated June 2005 on pages 193 through 223. Isn’t it interesting that a study commissioned by – and paid for by – the New Jersey attorney general and Department of Justice (all of us) is hidden behind a paywall?

8 replies
  1. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    This study is such race baiting crap. Where does it stop? Are more men than women stopped (likely) so are traffic stops sexist? Are more young than old stopped, so we have ageism? More whites than asians (you’ll never hear about that one)? More text monkeys and seatbelt scofflaws?

    All horse puckey. I think this is one area that cameras in cop cars etc. might pull the rug out from under this falderal.

    You broke the law. Suck it up.

    While we still have laws anyway…….

  2. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    Statistics can be used to prove whatever is the desired conclusion. Bureaucrats and politicians love to use these statistics, it makes them “look” smart and of course, it only shows how lacking in intelligence they are.

    • bien-pensant
      bien-pensant says:

      As with any “study”, the statistics derived from it can be manipulated. That is what the professional hate-mongers with their race-baiting rhetoric are doing.
      That they make money from their constant agitating of various groups is a testimony to their motives.
      They are looking too make money off “the inequality” and the “unfairness” of it all because the study “proves” that the police hate minorities, or something like that. Anyway, they have their hands out.
      Puzzle me this: why are prisons disproportionately populated with minorities? What happens if scientists discover a criminality gene?

  3. JollyRoger
    JollyRoger says:

    It’s amazing to me that black people are shot and murdered by the dozens each weekend in places like Chicago, Camden or Philadelphia (my fair city), and the black leadership is concerned with this nebulous issue of racial profiling? If anyone is a victim of profiling, it’s the police!

    • bien-pensant
      bien-pensant says:

      Yes, the police are in a lose-lose situation. Always have been.
      However, the various communities that barely make the news every weekend, are embroiled in drugs, hip-hop music, rap songs that are violent and promote violence (especially towards women and authority figures), and a culture saturated with being a thug. Criminal behavior is glorified and venerated. (“He was such a good boy, he don’t let no one diss him.”)
      Hard to make a civilization out of that or even pretend to aspire to enduring art, culture and/or civilized behavior. (Yo! Wadd up? ‘Chu lookin’ at, n*****?)
      That says it all, unfortunately.
      ~~~~
      So, are the police profiling people randomly or are they doing their jobs and investigating where and when their instincts tell them there is something criminal happening?

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