Myths of racial profiling

This morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune carries a piece by liberal columnist Doug Grow on the latest study alleging racial profiling by Minnesota law enforcement agencies. Grow’s column is “When will we stop profiling on our state’s roads?” The column is based on a study released last week by the Council on Crime and Justice.
The study compiles data from 65 Minnesota law enforcement agencies regarding traffic stops and searches during the year 2002. Unlike Grow and the other people quoted in his column, I have actually read the study. Three points powerfully undermine Grow’s column and the allegation that Minnesota law enforcement officers treat drivers differently based on the color of their skin.
First, as to stops, the study relegates a critical fact to Appendix 6. According to the officers who submitted the reports on which the study is based, officers did not know the race of the drivers whom they were stopping in roughly 90 percent of the stops under review. The text of the report generally ignores the issue of driver identification and specifically ignores the data on this point; the appendix suggests the officers are lying or the data are unreliable. The overwhelming agreement of the data on this basic point suggests otherwise.
Second, as to searches, the report contrasts the “hit rates” — the rates at which contraband is found in searches categorized as discretionary — between drivers of different racial groups. If the hit rates are unequal for members of different racial groups, one might infer that searches are conducted on some basis other than the officers’ observations.
The single largest set of data for searches in the study derives from Minneapolis, where 5000 such searches were reported. The Minneapolis search data include more searches than the other 64 jurisdictions combined. Although blacks were stopped and searched much more frequently than whites in Minneapolis, the hit rates were roughly equal — 13 percent for whites, 11 percent for blacks. Accordingly, contrary to Grow’s allegation in the column, the data strongly suggest that the Minneapolis police officers are conducting searches based on observed conduct rather than the skin color of the driver.
Third, the column refers to anecdotal accounts of racial profiling and states that it’s time to accept these accounts as true. Grow states, “It’s happened…to Sen. Mee Moua, to thousands and thousands of people. ‘At some point, we have to accept the truth,’ said Moua, a St. Paul DFLer who is Hmong.”
The study includes data on stops and searches of those categorized as “Asians.” Contrary to the gist of Mee Moua’s statement, however, the data show that Asians are subject to stops and searches at roughly the same rate as whites. The difference between the rates at which Asians and “Latinos” are stopped and searched is roughly the same as the difference between the rates at which whites and blacks are stopped and searched. Whatever the difference represents, it isn’t racial.
At some point we indeed have to accept the truth, but it apparently won’t be any time soon and it certainly won’t be reported as such in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
HINDROCKET adds: The Trunk heroically agreed to appear on a Minnesota Public Radio show yesterday to talk about the “racial profiling” report. The other participants treated him like ants at a picnic, and the fact that he had actually read not only the report but the data underlying it made it so awkward to have him on the show that they disconnected him after a few minutes. Way to go, Trunk. It is a curious fact–which, among other things, stands Marxism on its head–that it is virtually taboo to defend police officers against charges of racism. Such a defense cannot be heard in the halls of the establishment, and can only be mounted in guerrilla fashion by irregular soldiers like us.
UPDATE: Monday’s lead editorial in the Star Tribune reiterates Grow’s column: “Minnesota’s racial profiling problem needs solutions.”


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