Racial Profiling

CalPundit points out about racial profiling by police in Los Angeles:

Among people who were pulled over:

  • 3.5% of whites were frisked and 5% were searched.
  • 12% of Latinos were frisked and 18.5% were searched.
  • 14.7% of blacks were frisked and 18.7% were searched

Then responding to criticism, he looked up the raw report and deduced from it that:

  • Police searched blacks at about four times the rate of whites, but also found contraband at about four times the rate, which makes the search rate seem defensible on non-racial grounds. On the other hand, they found contraband on Hispanics at only twice the rate of whites, which makes the 4x search rate look pretty dubious.
  • The arrest rates seem even more troubling, since this is a good indication of whether anything serious was going on. For both blacks and Hispanics the search rate is 4x the white search rate, but the arrest rate is only about double. This seems to indicate that the LAPD’s “suspiciousness radar” was tuned rather higher for blacks and Hispanics than for whites.

It’s true that data like this needs careful study, certainly something more careful than an amateur like me can give it. On the other hand, it does seem to indicate that the LAPD treats blacks and Hispanics with rather more suspicion than is justified, and race seems to be a part of it.

POSTSCRIPT I: One last comment: my snarky remark about affirmative action in yesterday’s post had a serious side to it: conservatives typically claim that, yes, there is probably still some racism in our society, but the best way for the government to respond is to just set a good example and be absolutely color blind. Eventually society will follow.

But if that’s true, then why isn’t it equally true for racial profiling? The liberal response might be, sure, maybe blacks commit more crimes than whites, but the best way to respond to this is to ignore it and have police act in a completely color blind manner. Eventually the problem will solve itself.

Is racism still alive? I would say pretty much so though it has definitely decreased from historical levels. Is racial profiling a good thing? I concede that in some cases it might provide police with some help but it also impedes them in a number of ways. For example, a profile of Middle Eastern men would never have caught Richard Reid or Jose Padilla. Also, racial profiling of African Americans smacks too much of Jim Crow. Another very important way in which racial profiling creates problems for the police is by fraying the relationship between law enforncement and the minority in question. And that is something most conservatives, especially those belonging to the white majority, don’t understand at all. Randall Kennedy in an article in the New Republic argued for banning racial profiling due to the same reasons.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

6 thoughts on “Racial Profiling”

  1. You’re missing one part of the conservative argument about abolishing affirmative action. Of course racism still exists, but racism is exhibited by members of all races. Affirmative action assumes only white racism, and thus sets up a racial spoils system based on that false idea.

    I don’t think your comparison is effective. When it comes to college admissions, we can assume little based solely on skin color; what we normally would want to know about the candidate is what kind of school he went to, what his grades are, etc. Unfortunately young black males commit crimes way out of proportion to their numbers (I don’t know much about Hispanic rates) and it is asking a lot—even if it needs to be asked—for police not to be conditioned by their experience.

  2. racial profiling is disturbing-but, aren’t a lot of cops in black areas black themselves? that’s one argument i have with racism being a cause of black problems in america-it might have been a problem before and to some extent is-but black mayors, police officers, firefighteres, etc. aren’t uncommon anymore. detroit and gary, indiana, went to hell under black mayors who were corrupt and took their constituents for granted. this sort of thing needs to be brought up.

  3. Christopher: You are right that racism exists in all people, but because of the history of the US the effects are not the same. Plus actions of the majority always have more weight than the nimority.

    Also, I consider affirmative action to be a temporary measure that should be abolished (probably soon.) In any case, the negative effects of affirmative action on whites and asians are not as drastic as those of racial profiling on blacks.

  4. Razib: Racism is not the only problem. It definitely was 50 years ago but now there are a multitude of problems witht black unerclass in the ghetto. Racial profiling I think is not only due to racism, there is an element of stereotyping and police laziness as well. And I think people of one race can definitely stereotype themselves. I remember reading about Jesse Jackson saying that when he heard footsteps behind him he was relieved to find it was a white guy.

    Another point that I want to make with racial profiling and special registration is that they might be useful to some small extent but they cause more damage to the larger community in the distrust/hatred of authority they create there.


  6. Hell Yes racism is still alive!!! no matter what you guys say it will always be called racial profiling because it is. I personally think your racist and dont like the fact that whites are just as bad or even worse. Whites are in gangs, own illegal weapons, deal and use drugs or alcohol or marijuana, steal, kill, and all other crimes. they just dont always get arrested for it because of skin color like blacks or hispanics who get automatically arrested for any little thing or sometimes things they didnt do. All races play sports and whites are usually worse atheletes than others when it comes to that kind of thing.

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