Thursday, March 12, 2015
for the New York Post, John R. Lott, disputes recent claims by
Attorney General Eric Holder that a recent Justice Department report
proves racism in the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. For example, Lott, who
is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and a former
chief economist for the United States Sentencing Commission, considers
the report's findings regarding traffic stops:
"Data collected by the Ferguson Police Department from 2012 to 2014 shows that African-Americans account for 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of citations, and 93 percent of arrests made by FPD officers, despite comprising only 67 percent of Ferguson's population."That last sentence speaks volumes to me. Not only, as Lott puts it, don't "[d]ifferences ... necessarily imply racism", but the mere protestation that one is concerned with justice or racial equality does not, to be generous, necessarily guarantee that one's actions will achieve either.
Those statistics don't prove racism, because blacks don't commit traffic offenses at the same rate as other population groups.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics' 2011 Police-Public Contact Survey indicates that, nationwide, blacks were 31 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over for a traffic stop.
Ferguson is a black-majority town. If its blacks were pulled over at the same rate as blacks nationally, they'd account for 87.5 percent of traffic stops.
In other words, the numbers actually suggest that Ferguson police may be slightly less likely to pull over black drivers than are their national counterparts. They certainly don't show that Ferguson is a hotbed of racism.
Critics may assert that that "31 percent more likely" figure simply shows that racism is endemic to police forces nationwide.
Hmm: The survey also reveals that men are 42 percent more likely than women to be pulled over for traffic stops. Should we conclude that police are biased against men, or that men drive more recklessly?
In fact, blacks die in car accidents at a rate about twice their share of car owners.
Not that it's the government's job to save us from ourselves, but this administration frequently acts on that premise. Given that context, isn't it interesting that this administration champions the misinterpretation of one statistic, traffic citations -- while remaining oblivious or indifferent to another, deaths from car accidents?