July 14, 2006
License, Insurance Card, and Race, PleaseBy Marc Sheppard
Suffolk County, NY, police have announced a pilot program in which officers are recording the race of drivers stopped for routine traffic violations. The initiative, which requires that officers make a visual determination of the suspect's race, is aimed at preventing officers from making determinations based upon a suspect's race.
As reported by Newsday on 7/10/2006:
Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer explained the necessity of the strategy:
So, according to the Commish, the officers under his command are not worthy of the same inalienable right of assumption of innocence which they are compelled to extend to the criminal suspects they encounter. Meanwhile, Yvonne Patterson—Quirk, president of the Islip Town NAACP, outlined the severity of the profiling problem on Long Island:
The department is set to report its data to the county's Human Rights Commission upon completion of the 'pilot' period of approximately 12 months. Paulette Bartunek, executive director of the HRC, which originally brought the idea to the Steve Levy, the County Executive, explained to Newsday:
So, in other words, the SCPD, the local NAACP, and the HRC, have absolutely no tangible reason to believe that minorities are being treated unfairly by law enforcement in the county. In fact, their experiment is based on the illogical premise of a 'negative proof,' in that it assumes profiling exists simply because there is no proof that it does not. But its equivocal origin is but the beginning of the nefarious nature of this exercise.
The Basic Premise is Flawed
The stated principle behind collecting this data is that, in a perfect (ie. liberal—dream) world, the demographics of traffic stops in a target area should, predictably, closely resemble those of the area's population. This hypothesis is, of course, as absurd as it is quixotic. It is based upon the same erroneous conclusion often derived to explain the disproportionate representation of minorities on police blotters — that variations from standard deviations can only be explained by authoritarian racism.
Additionally, the very action of attempting to disprove its existence tacitly suggests that the debate over whether or not profiling is racist has ended. This, too, is erroneous.
The Statistical Reasoning is Specious
The 2004 census reports that Suffolk County's population is 84.3% white, 7.1% black and 3.2% Asian, with 12.4% also reporting that they are of Hispanic origin. These are the figures the police statements will be scrutinized against. Yet, there is absolutely no logical reason to assume that these numbers are representative of vehicle occupancy on the two participating highways, or any other Suffolk roads.
Indeed, the thoroughfares targeted for the plan both essentially span Long Island. As such, they are frequented by the population of two large counties, not particular, diverse neighborhoods. Moreover, and particularly in the summer period selected for initial testing, both are typically navigated by beach—goers, fishermen, nature lovers, and others seeking various forms of recreation on the Island, including its infamous east—end. These travelers will, invariably, include vast numbers of vehicles originating from the boroughs of New York City, which represent an entirely different 'demo' than Suffolk County.
In previous locales where comparable social experiments have been conducted, both sides have alternately disputed the merits of using 'driver' rather than 'residential' populations as baseline figures. In fact, within the very same city — San Diego, CA — One side argued that poorer minorities are less likely to own cars, while the other insisted that tourists and other transient traffic negatively skewed the numbers.
Will this alternative metric of driver demographics be applied when it will work contrary to the preferred outcome, as in the case of Long Island? Any guesses?
Data Interpretation Will Remain Solely in the Eye of the Beholder
Of course, remedying the sampling errors would by no means resolve the inadequacies inherent to the process. Surely, those predisposed to do so will decry a 15% incidence of stops of black drivers in a 7.1% black population as evidence of racial misconduct.
Alternately, police spokesmen, analyzing identical data, will quickly point out that more stops are made in higher—crime areas where nonwhites tend to live. This translates to more cops patrolling vicinities with more minorities, which, in turn, corresponds to blacks and Hispanics being pulled over more often.
On the surface, targeted police presence may seem a less compelling explanation when dealing with highways, unless stops are performed at exits and entrances. However, the program is expected to eventually go department—wide, as it has in a large and growing percentage of precincts nationally.
Of course, even suggesting the simple possibility that black or Hispanic drivers violate traffic laws at a higher rate than they are represented in the driving population, invites being labeled with the dreaded 'R' word. Under the threat of such branding, county representatives at all levels will certainly discount the issue, leading us directly to the next problem.
Only Cherry—Picked Data will be made Available for Analysis
The stated purpose of Suffolk's and similar schemes nationwide is to track the racial chemistry of traffic stops. Nonetheless, one can't help but wonder whether the plethora of additional resulting statistics will ever be analyzed or even made available to the public. For instance, will the percentage of issued summonses and actual arrests for DWI, narcotics, weapons charges and other felonies pursuant to these stops be reported to us demographically?
Not likely, as these figures might serve to uncover the actual and unwelcome truth behind the apparent disparities. As outspoken black columnist Larry Elder wrote back in 1999:
Neither the Reverend's nor Mr. Elder's comments were, by any means, unfounded. A study compiled by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections reporting national rates of incarceration as of January 1, 1990 found that:
These figures would suggest to an intelligent cop that blacks are almost 7 times more likely to be involved in criminal behavior than whites.
Of course, that was over 15 years ago and gender and age were omitted. Surely, good detective work demands more discriminating and contemporary information. Okay —— How's this for intelligence a sharp investigator might consider in gathering up the usual suspects? According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin, as of midyear 2004:
These are astounding statistics! What's more, when considered adjunctively with male black gang involvement and the violent lifestyles fostered in various black songs and videos, is there any real question as to why cops (and Jesse Jackson) on the street distinguish race? And — their behavior and statutes to the contrary — the SCPD, the NAACP, the HRC, the ACLU, and, yes, the MSM are all painfully aware of these dire actualities!
Racial does not mean Racist
Yet, while programs such as Suffolk's endeavor to gather racial statistics to prove a negative, the participating agencies demand that their officers ignore racial statistics which prove this positive — Race is a vital determining factor in criminal investigation.
In fact, one could reasonably argue that 'jail' populations are equally as valid as baseline percentages as those 'driver' or 'residential.' That is, if one were willing to suffer the arduous consequences realized by such candor. Unfortunately, few are — again, that dreaded, argument ending, 'R' word.
How pitiful — For if profiling were truly a product of racism rather than statistical probability, the project 'results' should find black grandmothers stopped as often as black men in their twenties, after adjusting for their percentage of the driving population. Does anyone seriously anticipate such a ridiculous outcome?
Meanwhile, the left and its anti—police cohorts defend racial preferences in admissions policies and government job contracts. They require political positions, college admissions, and judicial appointments to conform to a quota system based on skin color and gender. Yet, they incongruously continue to demand that race play no part in investigative decision making.
County Executive Levy feels that this program will track profiling if it occurs and counter accusations of such if it does not. Either outcome, in his opinion, will help build trust with minority communities. Unfortunately, history consistently belies such an idealistic outlook
In truth, this misguided path of analytical convenience not only endangers our men and women in blue, but also countless innocent victims in both majority and minority communities. It hypocritically accepts the validity of statistics in police work, but only to the extent that they conform to the country's new PC directive, and not in the critical manner which saves lives.
Most dangerously of all, this imprudent plan may actually provide criminals free passage on our roads, as police officers allow their inevitable racial 'quotas' to impact upon their daily decisions.
What next — a similar program at airports to affirm that Muslims, who comprise nearly 100% of the terrorist population, are not searched in numbers greater than the percentage they represent of the flight's population? Has this country gone completely mad?
Marc Sheppard is a business owner, software developer and writer residing on New York's Long Island. He is a regular contributor to The American Thinker and othr publications. He welcomes your feedback.