Fw: DOJ, ACLU relied on junk science: N.J. racial profiling a myth?

karee@tstonramp.com karee@tstonramp.com
Thu, 4 Apr 2002 08:48:10 -0800

Alright.  So I'll likely get flamed as a racist for even posting this.
Despite the political flavor of the article, I'd still love to see this
study.  I don't know if I'd go as far to say that racial profiling has been
ruled a complete myth, as this was one state, one road (albiet a long
stretch of road).  This does make the bulletproof 'all cops are racially
profiling' argument much less so.

I hope this does get published in wide circulation, but I don't hold out
much hope.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Declan McCullagh" <declan@well.com>
To: <politech@politechbot.com>
Sent: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 8:19 PM
Subject: FC: DOJ, ACLU relied on junk science: N.J. racial profiling a myth?

> [Via http://www.center-right.org/ --Declan]
> ========================================================
> Also, please note that there's a response to this article by James Taranto
> http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=105001836, a rebuttal by Heather
> MacDonald at http://city-journal.org/html/eon_3_29_02hm.html, and an
> earlier and more comprehensive article about profiling by Heather
MacDonald at
> http://www.city-journal.org/html/11_2_the_myth.html
> "The Racial Profiling Myth Debunked,"
> by Heather MacDonald, Manhattan Institute,
> from City Journal, http://city-journal.org
> New data show City Journal was right -- there's no credible evidence that
> racial profiling exists.
> The anti-racial profiling juggernaut has finally met its nemesis: the
> truth.  According to a new study, black drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike
> are twice as likely to speed as white drivers, and are even more dominant
> among drivers breaking 90 miles per hour.
> This finding demolishes the myth of racial profiling.  Precisely for that
> reason, the Bush Justice Department tried to bury the report so the
> profiling juggernaut could continue its destructive campaign against law
> enforcement.  What happens next will show whether the politics of racial
> victimization now trump all other national concerns.
> Until now, the anti-police crusade that travels under the banner of
> racial profiling" has traded on ignorance.  Its spokesmen went around the
> country charging that the police were stopping "too many" minorities for
> traffic infractions or more serious violations.  The reason, explained the
> anti-cop crowd, was that the police were racist.
> They can argue that no more.  The new turnpike study, commissioned by the
> New Jersey attorney general, solves one of the most vexing problems in
> racial profiling analysis: establishing a violator benchmark.  To show
> the police are stopping "too many" members of a group, you need to know,
> a minimum, the rate of lawbreaking among that group -- the so-called
> violator benchmark.
> Only if the rate of stops or arrests greatly exceeds the rate of criminal
> behavior should our suspicions be raised (see "The Myth of Racial
> Profiling," Spring 2001).  But most of the studies that the ACLU and
> defense attorneys have proffered to show biased behavior by the police
> used crude population measures as the benchmark for comparing police
> activity -- arguing, say, that if 24 percent of speeding stops on a
> particular stretch of highway were of black drivers, in a city or state
> where blacks make up 19 percent of the population, the police are
> over-stopping blacks.
> Such an analysis is clearly specious, since it fails to say what
> of speeders are black, but the data required to rebut it were not
> available.  Matthew Zingraff, a criminologist at North Carolina State
> University, explains why: "Everybody was terrified.  Good statisticians
> were throwing up their hands and saying, 'This is one battle you'll never
> win.  I don't want to be called a racist.'"
> Even to suggest studying the driving behavior of different racial groups
> was to demonstrate one's bigotry, as Zingraff himself discovered when he
> proposed such research in North Carolina and promptly came under
> attack.  Such investigations violate the reigning fiction in anti-racial
> profiling rhetoric: that all groups commit crime and other infractions at
> equal rates.  It follows from this central fiction that any differences in
> the rate at which the police interact with certain citizens result only
> from police bias, not from differences in citizen behavior.
> Despite the glaring flaws in every racial profiling study heretofore
> available, the press and the politicians jumped on the anti-profiling
> bandwagon.  How could they lose?  They showed their racial sensitivity,
> and, as for defaming the police without evidence, well, you don't have to
> worry that the New York Times will be on your case if you do.
> No institution made more destructive use of racial profiling junk science
> than the Clinton Justice Department.  Armed with the shoddy studies, it
> slapped costly consent decrees on police departments across the country,
> requiring them to monitor their officers' every interaction with
> minorities, among other managerial intrusions.
> No consent decree was more precious to the anti-police agenda than the one
> slapped on New Jersey.  In 1999, then-governor Christine Todd Whitman had
> declared her state's highway troopers guilty of racial profiling, based on
> a study of consent searches that would earn an F in a freshmen statistics
> class.  (In a highway consent search, an officer asks a driver for
> permission to search his car, usually for drugs or weapons.)
> The study, executed by the New Jersey attorney general, lacked crucial
> swathes of data on stops, searches, and arrests, and compensated for the
> lack by mixing data from wildly different time periods.  Most fatally, the
> attorney general's study lacked any benchmark of the rate at which
> different racial groups transport illegal drugs on the turnpike.  Its
> conclusion that the New Jersey state troopers were searching "too many"
> blacks for drugs was therefore meaningless.
> Hey, no problem!, exclaimed the Clinton Justice Department.  Here's your
> consent decree and high-priced federal monitor; we'll expect a lengthy
> report every three months on your progress in combating your officers'
> Universally decried as racists, New Jersey's troopers started shunning
> discretionary law-enforcement activity.  Consent searches on the turnpike,
> which totaled 440 in 1999, the year that the anti-racial profiling
> got in full swing, dropped to an astoundingly low 11 in the six months
> ended October 31, 2001.
> At the height of the drug war in 1988, the troopers filed 7,400 drug
> charges from the turnpike, most of those from consent searches; in 2000,
> they filed 370 drug charges, a number that doubtless has been steadily
> dropping since then.  It is unlikely that drug trafficking has dropped on
> New Jersey's main highway by anything like these percentages.
> "There's a tremendous demoralizing effect of being guilty until proven
> innocent," explains trooper union vice president Dave Jones.  "Anyone you
> interact with can claim you've made a race-based stop, and you spend years
> defending yourself."  Arrests by state troopers have also been plummeting
> since the Whitman-Justice Department racial profiling declaration.
> Not surprisingly, murder jumped 65 percent in Newark, a major destination
> of drug traffickers, between 2000 and 2001.  In an eerie replay of the
> eighties' drug battles, Camden is considering inviting the state police
> back to fight its homicidal drug gangs.
> But one thing did not change after the much-publicized consent decree: the
> proportion of blacks stopped on the turnpike for speeding continued to
> exceed their proportion in the driving population.  Man, those troopers
> must be either really dumb or really racist!, thought most observers,
> including the New Jersey attorney general, who accused the troopers of
> persistent profiling.
> Faced with constant calumny for their stop rates, the New Jersey troopers
> asked the attorney general to do the unthinkable: study speeding behavior
> on the turnpike.  If it turned out that all groups drive the same, as the
> reigning racial profiling myths hold, then the troopers would accept the
> consequences.
> Well, we now know that the troopers were neither dumb nor racist; they
> merely doing their jobs.  According to the study commissioned by the New
> Jersey attorney general and leaked first to the New York Times and then to
> the Web, blacks make up 16 percent of the drivers on the turnpike, and 25
> percent of the speeders in the 65-mile-per-hour zones, where profiling
> complaints are most common.  (The study counted only those going more than
> 15 miles per hour over the speed limit as speeders.)  Black drivers speed
> twice as much as white drivers, and speed at reckless levels even
> more.  Blacks are actually stopped less than their speeding behavior would
> predict -- they are 23 percent of those stopped.
> The devastation wrought by this study to the anti-police agenda is
> catastrophic.  The medieval Vatican could not have been more threatened
> Galileo offered photographic proof of the solar system.  It turns out that
> the police stop blacks more for speeding because they speed more.  Race
> nothing to do with it.
> This is not a politically acceptable result.  And the researchers who
> conducted the study knew it.  Anticipating a huge backlash should they go
> public with their findings, they checked and rechecked their data.  But
> results always came out the same.
> Being scientists, not politicians, they prepared to publish their study
> this past January, come what may.  Not so fast!, commanded the now-Bush
> Justice Department.  We have a few questions for you.  And the Bush DOJ,
> manned by the same attorneys who had so eagerly snapped up the laughable
> New Jersey racial profiling report in 1999, proceeded to pelt the speeding
> researchers with a series of increasingly desperate objections.
> The elegant study, designed by the Public Service Research Institute in
> Maryland, had taken photos with high-speed camera equipment and a radar
> of nearly 40,000 drivers on the turnpike.  The researchers then showed the
> photos to a team of three evaluators, who identified the race of the
> driver.  The evaluators had no idea if the drivers in the photos had been
> speeding.  The photos were then correlated with speeds.
> The driver identifications are not reliable!, whined the Justice
> Department.  The researchers had established a driver's race by agreement
> among two of the three evaluators.  So in response to DOJ's complaint, the
> researchers reran their analysis, using only photos about which the
> evaluators had reached unanimous agreement.  The speeding ratios came out
> identically to before.
> The data are incomplete!, shouted the Justice Department next.  About one
> third of the photos had been unreadable, because of windshield glare that
> interfered with the camera, or the driver's position.  Aha!, said the
> federal attorneys.  Those unused photos would change your results!  But
> that is a strained argument.  The only way that the 12,000 or so
> photos would change the study's results would be if windshield glare or a
> seating position that obstructed the camera disproportionately affected
> racial group.  Clearly, they do not.
> Nevertheless, DOJ tried to block the release of the report until its
> objections were answered.  "Based on the questions we have identified, it
> may well be that the results reported in the draft report are wrong or
> unreliable," portentously wrote Mark Posner, a Justice lawyer held over
> from the Clinton era.
> DOJ's newfound zeal for pseudo-scientific nitpicking is remarkable, given
> its laissez-faire attitude toward earlier slovenly reports that purported
> to show racial profiling.  Where it gets its new social-science expertise
> is also a mystery, since according to North Carolina criminologist Matthew
> Zingraff, "there's not a DOJ attorney who knows a thing about statistical
> methods and analysis."  Equally surprising is Justice's sudden unhappiness
> with the Public Service Research Institute, since it approved the
> of the institute for an earlier demographic study of the turnpike.
> The institute proposed a solution to the impasse:  Let us submit the study
> to a peer-reviewed journal or a neutral body like the National Academy of
> Sciences.  If a panel of our scientific peers determines the research to
> sound, release the study then.  No go, said the Justice Department.  That
> study ain't seeing the light of day.
> Robert Voas, the study's co-author, is amazed by Justice's
> intransigence.  "I think it's very unfortunate that the politics have
> gotten in the way of science," he says, choosing his words carefully.
> scientific system has not been allowed to move as it should have in this
> situation."
> As DOJ and the New Jersey attorney general stalled, The Record of Bergen
> posted the report on the Web, forcing the state attorney general to
> it officially.  Now the damage control begins in earnest.  Everyone with a
> stake in the racial profiling myth, from the state attorney general to the
> ACLU to defense attorneys who have been getting drug dealers out of jail
> and back on the streets by charging police racism, is trying to minimize
> the significance of the findings.
> But they are fighting a rear-guard battle.  Waiting in the wings are other
> racial profiling studies by statisticians who actually understand the
> benchmark problem:  Matthew Zingraff's pioneering traffic research in
> Carolina, due out in April, as well as sound studies in Pennsylvania, New
> York, and Miami.  Expect many of the results to support the turnpike data,
> since circumstantial evidence from traffic fatalities and drunk-driving
> tests have long suggested different driving behaviors among different
> racial groups.  While racist cops undoubtedly do exist, and undoubtedly
> they are responsible for isolated instances of racial profiling, the
> evidence shows that systematic racial profiling by police does not exist.
> The Bush administration, however desperate to earn racial sensitivity
> points, should realize that far more than politics is at stake in the
> poisonous anti-racial profiling agenda.  It has strained police-community
> relations and made it more difficult for the police to protect law-abiding
> citizens in inner-city neighborhoods.  The sooner the truth about policing
> gets out, the more lives will be saved, and the more communities will be
> allowed to flourish freed from the yoke of crime.
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