Profiling, in general, is an indispensable tool of law enforcement — essential in utilizing scarce resources efficiently. The left claims that profiling of African-Americans is racist, but not even Sharpton has accused the police of arbitrarily stopping elderly black women — at least he hasn’t yet.
Sharpton has also forgotten that there are sound statistical reasons why young black males are stopped so frequently. The 1997 FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that one-in-three black males is already a convicted felon. Although African-American men constitute only 6 percent of the overall population, they account for roughly 40 percent of the country’s violent crimes. The fact that such profiling sometimes casts unfair suspicion on non-criminal young black males is certainly unfair, but such overwhelming statistics belie simplistic characterizations of profiling as pure racism.
Los Angeles police chief Bernard Parks, who is both African-American and a supporter of racial profiling, offered the following example to a New York Times Sunday Magazine reporter to explain the type of case where profiling is acceptable: “We have an issue of violent crime against jewelry salespeople … The predominant suspects are Colombians. We don’t find Mexican-Americans or blacks or other immigrants. It’s a collection of several hundred Colombians who commit this crime. If you see six in a car in front of the Jewelry Mart, and they’re waiting and watching people with briefcases, should we play the percentages and follow them? It’s common sense.” Jesse Jackson, in a rare moment of candor, once conceded an idea much the same: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life,” he said in 1993, “than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start to think about robbery and then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”
In many instances, it’s common sense for police to include race along with other factors in creating a profile of possible perpetrators. It makes everyone — especially law-abiding citizens in high-crime areas, who are disproportionately black — a lot safer. The courts have already ruled sensibly in these matters.
“Large groups of our citizens should not be regarded by law enforcement officers as presumptively criminal based upon their race. [However], facts are not to be ignored simply because they are unpleasant,” the 8th Circuit of the Federal Court of Appeals ruled in U.S. vs. Weaver.
But common sense is the last thing to guide high-minded “progressives.” On June 4, the American Civil Liberties Union ran a full-page, accusatory ad about racial profiling on the inside cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. The ad, which cost approximately $80,000, featured head shots of Martin Luther King Jr. and psychotic killer Charles Manson. The ad copy read: “THE MAN ON THE LEFT [Martin Luther King] Is 75 Times More Likely To Be Stopped By The Police While Driving Than THE MAN ON THE RIGHT [Charles Manson]. The stated reason: “Police stop drivers based on their skin color rather than for the way they are driving.” The same false claim is made in “Driving While Black,” a 1999 ACLU report. “No person of color is safe from this treatment [racial profiling and traffic stops] anywhere, regardless of their obedience to the law, their age, the type of car they drive, or their station in life,” the report claimed.
But the “explanatory” text of the ACLU ad reveals just how far an organization of “civil liberties” lawyers is prepared to go in manipulating falsehoods to hoodwink Americans into believing that racism is rampant in every police department and on every highway. Too bad the only evidence actually offered by the ACLU is that “in Florida, 80 percent of those stopped and searched were black and Hispanic, while they constituted only 5 percent of all drivers.” The use of a Florida statistic might not have been so bad if the ACLU weren’t trying to use a single set of statistics to implicate every law enforcement agency in America. Too bad, then, that the figures were both misleading and inaccurate.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 11 percent of the state’s drivers are Hispanic or black, more than twice as many as the ACLU claims in its ad. (But even the official figure is probably low, since Florida authorities count Mexicans and Cubans as “white.”) But the ACLU’s most egregious error, giving it the benefit of the doubt that the mistake was unintentional, is that it overlooked the fact that, according to the Florida Department of Corrections, 85 percent of the convicted drug dealers in Florida (likely targets of road stops in a state where drug trafficking is a major trade) are Hispanic or black. And though black males constitute only 6 percent of Florida’s population, they commit 50 percent of all serious crimes. These sad statistics ought to be the factual — and defensible — basis of the state’s law-enforcement policies. In other words, the state ought to be focusing its prevention efforts on the communities and groups where crimes are most likely to be committed.
Sadly, they don’t. Under the threat of legal harassment from politically correct organizations like the ACLU, Florida’s Highway Patrol has taken steps to enforce its laws, as much as possible, within the racial and ethnic parameters of the population census rather than the criminal census. According to its own statistics for June, 17 percent of traffic stops were of Hispanics, who constitute 12 percent of the population; 19 percent of the stops were of blacks, who constitute 14 percent of the population. Statistics for the preceding six months were similar.
Further undercutting the ACLU’s allegations is the fact that many of the traffic stops conducted in Florida were by officers who are themselves Hispanic or black. Twenty percent of the Florida Highway Patrol is black or Hispanic — a fact that seems crucial to any consideration of potential racial prejudice in law enforcement.
The failure of the left and civil rights organizations like the ACLU to scrutinize these facts demonstrates a sure sign of the presence of an ideological force disconnected from reality.
During the months leading up to Sharpton’s march, a number of politicized universities and left-wing think tanks issued reports critical of racial disparities in the legal system. The reports were eagerly picked up by papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, which ran stories about them with cautionary headlines such as “Justice is Not Color Blind, Studies Find,” or “Study Finds Racial Disparity in ‘Zero Tolerance’ enforcement.”
A common and disturbing thread throughout these reports was the conspicuous absence of statistics stating the actual crimes that were committed. It is true, for example, that more cocaine “offenders” (e.g. customers) are white, but more blacks are in jail for cocaine offenses. But unless the nature of these offenses is described, any claims about punishments being “disparate” are meaningless. (Remember, it was liberal lawmakers, supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, who formed the consensus that removed the penalties and lifted the pressures on drug consumption, while at the same time stiffening penalties for violent and organized drug trafficking. Right or wrong, conservatives went along. But now it has become apparent that the violent and career criminal felons who conduct the drug business are mainly black and Hispanic. That is a problem, but it is not a problem created by a racist justice system.)
Professional drug dealers are often involved in criminal gangs — another reason why so many black and brown criminals fill the nation’s jails. There are an estimated 31,000 gangs in the United States that have a combined membership approaching 1 million. Eighty percent of these gang members are Hispanic and black. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the violent juvenile defendants in criminal courts are black males; 60 percent of the juvenile murder defendants in criminal court are black males; as are 72 percent of the rape defendants, 78 percent of robbery defendants, 61 percent of assault defendants and 65 percent of defendants charged with other types of violent crime, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention. These facts alone account for a good deal of the disparity in prison statistics.
Moreover, the false images cooked up by the left, and so casually promoted by the working press, have tragic consequences for the very communities they purport to defend. Only 79 percent of juveniles convicted of violent crimes are sent to prison — a fact that is decorously explained in the above cited report that under “the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act states must determine whether the proportion of minorities in confinement exceeds their proportion in the overall population. If overrepresentation is found, states must demonstrate efforts to reduce it …” And the “racist” state governments do so, these days, by releasing convicted violent criminals back to the streets where they will be free to commit even more mayhem.
The idea that black youth are the targets of a racist system that is indifferent to their fate is a monstrous libel against those in the criminal justice system, white, black and brown, who work against impossible odds to keep these youngsters on the right side of the law. Of the 1.5 million cases of juvenile delinquency and crime processed in 1994, for example, only 55 percent resulted in legal action. Of these, only 1.4 percent — the most severe cases — were handled in criminal court, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. These statistics reflect the scarcity of law enforcement resources and the overly tolerant view of the system itself, which in metropolitan areas where these crimes are concentrated is largely administered by “progressives” and liberals.