Racial Profiling

Getting back to the OP, sdimbert asked:

To which, stuffinb replied,

This is what I was trying to address before getting sidetracked onto the NJ racial profiling case. Does anyone have any actual statistics on crimes broken out by ethnicity, region, economics, etc.?

What does this mean? I understood you to be saying earlier that profiling increases the percentage of a total population that are found to have committed a crime. But you now seem to be saying that profiling artificially increases the percentage of people who are stopped who are found to have committed crimes. I’m unsure of what you mean by this, or why it is a bad thing.

This issue would apply to non-racial profiling as well. (There is a symetry between this and the bias crime arguments).

Izzy The problem isn’t criminality, but the bias iccurred when using statistics to determine criminality. Let’s look at it another way. Remember the 20/20 report last year that showed Black females were more subject to strip searches for drugs, even though by the Justice Departments own statistics showed black females were less likely to be carrying drugs.

The problem with enforcement this way is that you don’t prove criminality. You create a statistical anomaly by focusing your efforts towards one demographic.

If you were to stop 10 whites for every 100 blacks and both groups used drugs at the same 10% rate (pulled completey out of my ass) then by virtue of stopping more blacks, you’ll have a higher incidence of blacks being arrested.

Regarding the initial dataset, I am saying that our police have been less than colorblind in their enforcement of the law in the past. While I realize that some people dispute this, I think there is ample evidence to conclude that minority populations have received extra attention from the boys in blue.

I am arguing that it increases the percentage of arrests per people stopped in the targeted group, which in turn inflates the percentage of arrests in the population. If cop a believes that blacks are twice as likely as whites to be criminals, then he is more likely to stop blacks, more likely to employ stricter scrutiny in searches, and less likely to release them in cases where officer’s discretion may be employed. In the last racial profiling thread there were links to studies that showed that the percentage of cases dismissed due to lack of evidence was far higher for blacks than whites, which suggests to me that police were far more disposed to arresting them.


See my previous post to ptahlis. I’ll amplify a bit, using your example. If you pulled over the 10 whites and 200 blacks at random here’s what would happen. 1 white would be found with drugs, and 20 blacks. As a percentage of the total population of blacks you would arrest a higher percentage of people than the corresponding percentage among whites. And this would be solely due to profiling, as you say. But the percentage of those pulled over would be the same - 10%.

But suppose the whites are not pulled over at random. Suppose they too are profiled in some way before being pulled over on suspicion of drugs. You would expect (if the police have any competence at all) that the percentage of these whites found with drugs would be higher than the general percentage, say 25%. Now if the profiling of blacks did not reflect the reality of the situation, if it was due to some sort of bias, than the percentage of blacks pulled over that are found to have drugs should be significantly lower. After all, they are being pulled over at random, while the whites are not. If the percentages (of arrests) are similar for blacks and whites, than the profiling of blacks is as legitimate as the other reasons that the police have for stopping someone.

Do you have any links to this Justice Department study?

Izzy The report used to be on 20/20’s cite but it’s not there anymore so I’ll have to look around a bit. More on that later.

I’m not sure I understand the rest of your argument. Can you reprase it? It sounds like you’re saying that whites should figure more in arrest rates if the police are pulling cars over at random. If that’s what you’re saying then I agree with you. But the assertation of the OP is that the police are focusing there efforts towards minorities. If this is the case, then minorities will figure more prominently.

Is this for similar crimes/circumstances? If there’s a significant difference, than barring a compelling explanation it would indeed suggest that you’re onto something. And this would go beyond racial profiling.

In any event, you would surely agree that one could not arbitrarily decide that the number of stops (or arrests) per member of an ethnic must equal that group’s percentage of the population. So the statistics showing the racial breakdown of stops cannot in themselves be used to show discriminatory patterns of racial profiling. What to do with the difficulty of getting accurate data is the hard part.


I’m saying that the percentage of whites arrested per car pulled over should be higher than the percentage of blacks arrested per car pulled over, if the whites are being pulled over due to legitimate profiles and the blacks merely for DWB.

I sure didn’t get a pass when I was pulled over, and I am a white male, age 34, literate, dressed clean, clean shaven, I was cooperative, etc… I was in a bad neighborhood, at night, in a big 1981 Buick. Apparently, that is enough to be thoroughly searched. Both my car and my person were searched and they checked my mouth, nose, ears, socks, and barely stopped short of an anal probe. All cops involved were white. I didn’t complain until the 3rd time when I asked that they verify that it was the 3rd time and they refused. The 5th time, one of the cops was a rookie who was out to prove himself, and I didn’t even try to say a word, but I did call the station the next day and suggest that I was owed an apology. The sergeant I spoke to said the words, “I’m sorry,” but he didn’t really give a crap, and maybe thought that the reason I had been searched repeatedly was that I was probably doing something wrong. It hasn’t happened in six weeks. Maybe word got around finally.

I agree that the police have to be careful about this whole thing, and I don’t like the idea of stopping anyone with NO excuse other than their race. However I think the police are in a bad situation. If they can use this technique to actually put a dent in the drug trafficking, then fine. If it doesn’t have a significant effect, then they should not continue to do something causes resentment from the minorities. But, I would accept that resentment if the technique were successful. I’d love to be able to trust someone enough to give them complete authority, like Judge Dred, but because police are people they are corrupted by power. We’re not going to be able to completely eliminate that corruption. We have to find a balance that keeps them effective while not allowing them so much power that they create more problems than they solve. I think effectiveness should be what we measure, if we can.

BTW, Ptahlis, yeah. I said that poorly. I think everyone knew what I meant. Let me try to clarify just in case. I want society to put more effort into educating underpriviledged children, of which a disproportionate number are minority. I believe that this would be the best way to reduce crime in the long run. Thank you everyone for not jumping on me about my poor wording before. The only possibly racist thought here was that I think that being underpriviledged and undereducated is something that increases the likelihood of becoming a criminal. I have been told by a black person that believing this is racist. I don’t get it though. If that makes me racist, then I am racist.

I’m not sure if I’m understanding what you’re saying, but if it’s what I think you’re saying, the implications are astounding.

For one thing, a stop shouldn’t “turn out to be for just cause.” There has to be cause for a stop to be committed in the first place. Police can’t just go stopping people and hoping there turns out to be a reason. (Although they do anyway.)

For another, the fact that an arrest is made still doesn’t mean that a crime has been committed. That’s for a judge or jury to decide, not the police.

THAT’S the truth. I’ve been pulled over many a time and asked what I was doing in that neighborhood, often followed up by questions about whether I am there to buy drugs.

Your first paragraph is profiling and while it may make sense it violates the civil rights of those profiled and creates a police state. It may have the intent of makinf America a safer place, but Nazi Germany was supposed to be a rela safe place (unless you were black or a Jew, or a Gipsy, or Gay, or whatever).

Your second paragraph deals with something that is not profiling at all. And while it is highly unlikely that all the cops would have to go on is a “black guy”, a persons race can make them a specific suspect, along with his jacket, haircut and hat.

The difference? Profiling is not a response to a reported crime it is trolling for potential criminals.

Going out and looking for a short black guy in a brown jacket with a blue had is not profiling it is looking for a specific suspect after a crime has been reported and anyone who looks like the suspect is going to be in a lineup. It’s legal. Hell I was in a lineup one time because a cop thought I looked “close enough to be Mexican.”. I was pissed off, not about being presumed Mexican but because I was on my way somewhere. It’s inconvenient as hell and was a little bit scary (like “what if whoever is behind that glass has shitty eyesight and points at me??”), but it is legal and nessisary in a world where we don’t all happen to have cameras on us all the time.

I was never arrested. Not once. Got pulled over a couple a times. A couple of tickets. Same went for my white teen-age buddies.

And we were a crime wave all by ourselves! Drugs, weapons, robberies, vandalism.

From my admittedly limited experience, white teens are no less likely to be involved in criminal activity than anyone else.

Try checking out http://www.about.com/newsissues/racerelations/cs/raceandjustice/index.htm

You can then go to “Justice Denied” or any number of places to see studies done on race and our criminal justice system. You see many of you are convinced that blacks and hispanics commit more crimes, more serious crimes and at a greater rate then whites. I suppose you are, the criminal justice system shakes these people down more often, charges them more readily and incarcerates them at a greater rate than whites. No wonder much of the public is convinced that minorities commit more crimes. Go to any of the drug cites. You will then see reports on the fact that whites use and abuse illegal drugs not as much as blacks but more, yet they are much less likely to be arrested for it, charged, or given as stiff a sentence when they are charged. Racial profiling is just a integral part of an overall tone of discrimination in our criminal justice system that is slanted toward criminalizing our minority communities.


But they are less likely to be convicted, and even when they are they tend to be convicted of lesser offenses. There are a number of reasons for this, ranging from blatant racism to the economic realities of the criminal justice system and the average higher income of white defendants.

Economic reality is that unemployment is higher for minorities and average income is less. So just to make a group that is already down even more pissed off, we harass them specifically? This is anti-survival behavior. I have no problem with police officers enforcing the law. I wish that we had no laws that we were not ready to enforce. I have a big problem with police officers treating people unequally based on race.

Say an officer sees 100 people pass by in a set time, 12 blacks and 88 whites. He stops 16. 10 of those are black and 6 are white. If he finds that the same proportion of each group seems to be guilty of some offence and then takes action against all apparently guilty suspects, and the conviction rate is exactly equal, then more of the black suspects will end up being punished than the white suspects despite there being vastly more whites in the population than there is blacks. Statistically does this mean that the blacks were more likely to be committing a crime? No. The proportion of those that were found guilty of a crime did not vary by race. Expand this to a sample far greater than the 100, and this means that even if justice is pursued equally after suspects are selected from the population, such a course would result in more blacks in prison than whites. It also creates the impression that blacks are far more likely to commit crimes than whites, which in turn means that suspects will likely not get equal treatment after arrest.

Racial Profiling is harmful to the United States as a whole. It is not wise to deny equal justice to any group. Why should any group accept the rule of law if it means that they get screwed? What possible harm can come of selecting suspects on factors other than race?

Are you people totally blind?

Have you ever really been on the street?

In my own personal observation, it’s been the friggin’ uneducated niggers that have attempted to commit crimes upon me.

I used to be an open minded guy, but when 99% of people who tried to pan-handle me or try to rob me are black, I tend to see a pattern.

I think that Ptahlis has it backwards. It’s the cause, not the effect.

I don’t want to be racist, but the facts seem apparent to me. Has any other race been so predominantly poor during the 200+ years of US freedom?

A correction. The past 150 years or so of US freedom.

I really want someone to correct me here. I have never believed in racism, but experience has shown me otherwise. Maybe my experience is very skewed. I live in Las Vegas, then perhaps Las Vegas is very skewed.

What can I say Beeruser that had to be the most ignorant piece of drivel I’ve seen in my year on this Board.

To the Mods: My apologies in advance for this insult in this forum.

I have been stalked, beaten, robbed, and raped. All of the people who did these terrible things to me have been white. None of the areas where I live or work have been exclusively white.

My life was once saved by a homeless black man. As I was unconcious when he found me, he had opportunity to do me significant wrong. He did not. He revived me and helped me get some food so I could make it home.
Does this mean that all black people are trustworthy and only whites commit crimes? No. Drawing such a conclusion would be unwarranted and racist.

Beeruser, your language is uncalled for and your conclusions are racist. This message board is for fighting ignorance, not promoting it.

Do you seriously need help with this? Even if in your own personal experience your observation was true, your sampling is far too small to allow for extrapolation to a national scale.

and as for: “I don’t want to be racist”, then I would suggest that you stop making racist remarks like, oh, say “friggin’ uneducated niggers”. That might help.

As for the OP.

I work within the system and see inequities all the time. I remember a few years back, in a local, rural, white community, the football team would play football on Friday nights, and on Saturday nights, different groups of them would roam the town breaking into houses and businesses. Had it been an urban group, they’d have been called a gang. When they were arrested, it was openly reported by the prosecution that they didn’t want to “besmirch” the records of these young men, so all but one (considered to have been the instigator and was involved in all of them) were offered sweetheart deals that gave them zero jail time, a short term of probation followed by an expungement of their records. This same county had a local reputaion as a “hanging” county (one that tended to sentence people to the maximum available). But since it was their own home grown young 'uns, it was different.