Thursday, June 24, 2004


Coming to the politically correct conclusions was far more important than logic or reason to these university researchers

"University researchers found small racial disparities in traffic citations issued by 249 Bay State police departments. The findings have been greeted as proof of police bias. This conclusion is at best premature, since the Northeastern study lacks every prerequisite of sound profiling analysis.

To the claim that the police stop "too many" members of any given demographic group, the question must always be: "too many" compared to what? The Northeastern study compares police stop rates to population demographics. If 7 percent of a town's residents are black, for example, but 8 percent of traffic citations issued by the town's police are for black drivers, the authors conclude that the police single out drivers on the basis of skin color.

But population is a flawed benchmark for analyzing police actions -- as if police officers are guided by the census rather than by behavior. Crime rates differ across racial and ethnic groups; evidence suggests that driving behavior might, too. A 2001 study of the New Jersey Turnpike, for example, found that black drivers were twice as likely to speed as white drivers, a disparity that increased at speeds above 90 miles per hour. There are many possible explanations for this difference: Black drivers may be more likely to travel long distances on the turnpike, bringing them more frequently into faster left-hand lanes, or the black population on the pike may contain more young males than the white population, raising the number of speeders as well. The Northeastern study makes no effort to determine driving habits among its target groups; it thus has no basis for judging whether police stop rates are disproportionate."

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