Profiling, Again
March 01, 2005, 09:08 PM
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Got a letter from an Ohio reader that said this:
Dear Mr. Fulford,

I read your past article on racial profiling in America. I have seen the documentaries on 20/20 that conclusively show police ticketing African- Americans more than whites in Cincinnati.

A scientific study would be of interest to show whether minorities are inappropriately pulled over the police. I would suggest cameras and speed measurements on roadways throughout the city.

This would give an accurate way of measuring whether police were "targetting" minorities. We would initially have to ascertain whether the cameras and radar guns were not prejudiced against any one ethnic group.

I'm not sure which article he meant, but this one I did, Heather MacDonald Debunks Racial Profiling, reports that a study like that has already been done by the Public Services Research Institute in Maryland., and here's the short version:
When researchers combined driver identifications with the speeding information, Ms. Mac Donald says, they found "black drivers speed twice as much as white drivers, and speed at reckless levels even more."

Briefly, the anti-profiling argument is this: if blacks get more speeding tickets than whites, it's because police are harassing black motorists, whom they suspect, on statistical grounds, of committing crimes.

However, this doesn't follow, on two grounds, the scientific ground, above: blacks have been shown to speed more than whites, and the logical ground that since the black community does have a high crime rate, shouldn't they be expected to be, on the average, less likely to obey the traffic laws?