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Is your average cop society's sentinel or is he a racist authoritarian?

Posted on August 13 2009 10:33 pm
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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Kindergarten cop

Terry Krepel over at ConWebWatch had a response yesterday to my post challenging his misinterpretation of David Horowitz’s and my arguments regarding racial profiling:

In an Aug. 6 NewsReal blog post, David Swindle takes us to task for our previous criticism of him and David Horowitz for their apparent support of racial profiling:

David Horowitz had a great one-line response to Terry’s inability to even bother engaging our arguments for discussion:

What is it you don’t understand about protecting black people from black predators?

To which we respond: What is it you don’t understand about not treating all black people like potential predators?

As we originally pointed out, Horowitz and Swindle seemed to justify the full search of a vehicle of a black person pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike for a minor traffic offense — mentioned during an appearance by Horowitz on Glenn Beck’s Fox News show — by claiming that “a high percentage of drug dealers in the New York-New Jersey area were black.” That, on its face, implies support for racial profiling due to the apparent belief that because most drug dealers are black, all blacks should be therefore treated as potential drug dealers. No additional justification was provided.

In an encouraging turn in the debate, Krepel then acknowledged my clarification of our position (race is one factor among many to be considered when constructing offender profiling) and wrote,

But there was no indication from the person mentioned during Horowitz’s “Glenn Beck” appearance who was stopped and searched that he fit the profile of a drug dealer beyond being a black male.

We have no problem with police using profiling techniques to catch criminals — after all, that’s their job. We have a problem with race being a disproportionate factor when it’s not justified, which is what Horowitz and Swindle (as well as Newsmax’s Ronald Kessler) appeared to be endorsing.

We believe in color-blind justice. We hope Horowitz and Swindle do too.

Here’s Horowitz’s response to Krepel:

Treating all black people like potential predators is racist and we’re opposed to that. First look at the statistics of how many traffic stops for broken tail lights turn up criminals and then ask yourself whether the inconvenience isn’t worth it. Because I have an artificial hip I get searched every time I take a flight (which is often). That’s a greater inconvenience than having your car searched because you didn’t bother to fix your tail light. Now consider how many black citizens have been robbed, raped, murdered and become addicted to drugs because of leftists who oppose these simple and reasonable measures the police use to stop crime.

I respond to Krepel in a somewhat different fashion. First, of course, the crew member from Glenn Beck’s show who relayed the alleged incident of racial profiling isn’t going to mention if there was anything else about him that might make him fit the profile of a potential drug dealer. What does he know about offender profiling? Certainly not as much as the cop who stopped him, who assessed the situation and saw clues of possible criminal wrongdoing beyond a busted tail light.

But the fact of the matter is that in this case, neither Krepel nor Horowitz and myself know what happened. We weren’t there, we can only guess. And it’s here where the subject of ideology emerges. How do we make our guess at what happened? Why do Horowitz and I tend to lean more heavily toward the idea that the cop was just doing his job? Why does Krepel see a potential racist?

Because in our lack of information — and so much is happening in this world that virtually everyone is always short the needed information — we all rely on our ideological instincts to help us make guesses about situations. In a case of alleged racial profiling, Horowitz and I are more inclined to trust the police — while still acknowledging that there are rogue racist cops out there. We see our men and women in uniform people helping to defend a society worth defending. We don’t think that most of them are racists. Those on the Left come to different ideological conclusions. By and large the Left sees cops with more suspicion — as racist authoritarians oppressing innocent, victimized minorities and acting on behalf of an exploitative, immoral, imperialistic nation.

That basically explains why the different sides of the political spectrum came to such divergent conclusions regarding the Henry Louis Gates, Jr. case.

So I return to Krepel with the question posed in my headline, which seems to be our primary fundamental disagreement: Is your average cop society’s sentinel or is he a racist authoritarian? Is racism within the law-enforcement community a systematic problem, or are there just a few bad apples? And if your answer is the latter, then why would you make the assumption that Beck’s crew member was likely the victim of one of those few?

In other words, which ideological approach is ultimately more accurate and more useful in 2009?

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