Racial profiling

Study Suggests Racial Gap In Speeding In New Jersey
New York Times, 2002-03-21

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Two years ago, when the Justice Department forced New Jersey officials
to adopt new policies to discourage racial profiling by state troopers,
it also told the state to
study the driving habits of black and white motorists
on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The task was complicated, but the reason for it was simple:
numerous studies have shown that police officers in New Jersey and elsewhere
stop black and Hispanic drivers for speeding more often than they stop whites.
What is less certain is why --
how much of that disparity is because of racial profiling and
how much, if any, is attributable to differences in driving behavior,
which have never been adequately documented.

But rather than clarifying the issue, the study created its own muddle.
Justice Department officials say they have such serious questions
about the methods used to gather the data that
they have asked New Jersey’s attorney general not to release the findings.
It is not clear whether they will be made public.

The study involved
photographing tens of thousands of drivers on the turnpike last spring
while clocking speed with a radar gun.
It found that black drivers sped much more than other drivers,
according to three people who have reviewed the unreleased report.
The racial gap was far wider than officials had expected and,
in the politically charged controversies over profiling,
the data could be used by defenders of the state police to argue that
one reason black drivers are stopped more often than whites is that
they are more likely to speed.

There is evidence that racial profiling
was common practice in the New Jersey State Police in the 1990’s:
internal police memos;
testimony by troopers; and
training materials that encouraged officers to stop and search minority drivers.
Most striking are police records that show that black and Hispanic motorists,
who make up 30 percent of the drivers on the turnpike,
were subjected to more than 80 percent of the searches.

There are interpretive disputes over all these issues,
but none more vigorous than the debate over
how to quantify racial profiling on the nation’s highways.

In North Carolina, for example,
a professor hired in 2000 by the National Institute of Justice
to study whether there are
identifiable differences in driving behavior based on race,
assigned teams of students to travel roads at the speed limit,
record the race of drivers who passed them
and use stopwatches to time the drivers’ speed.
Though the study has not yet been released,
civil rights groups have dismissed its methods as “loony science”
and called Matthew T. Zingraff,
the lead researcher from North Carolina State University,
a racist and a police apologist.
Mr. Zingraff has said he was merely trying
to find new data to quantify racial profiling.

The analysis of speeders on the New Jersey Turnpike
was designed to reduce human error
by using high-speed photography to help identify the race of drivers.

The study used specially designed radar gun cameras,
which are used to photograph the license plates of speeders
and whose photos are accepted as evidence in many courts around the country,
to capture images of drivers in a variety of locations on the turnpike.
The study defined speeding as exceeding the speed limit by 15 miles per hour,
and officers are instructed to focus on the most egregious speeders.

Researchers then showed the photos of 38,747 drivers
to teams of three evaluators who tried to determine each driver’s race,
without knowing whether the driver had sped or not.
At least two evaluators were able to agree on the race
of 26,334 of the drivers photographed,
and an analysis of those motorists found that
the disparity between white and black drivers widened at higher speeds.

In the southern segment of the turnpike, where the speed limit is 65 m.p.h.,
2.7 percent of black drivers were speeders, compared with
1.4 percent of white drivers.
Among drivers going faster than 90 m.p.h., the disparity was even greater.

By contrast, blacks were no more likely to speed than whites
when the limit was 55 m.p.h.
In those geographical segments of the turnpike,
13.1 percent of black drivers were speeders, compared with
13.5 percent of white drivers.

Those results startled officials in the state attorney general’s office,
who had assumed that the radar study would bolster their case
that profiling was widespread.
Instead, the study concluded that blacks make up
16 percent of the drivers on the turnpike and
25 percent of the speeders in the 65 m.p.h. zones,
where complaints of profiling have been most common.

Recent state police figures showed that
23 percent of the traffic stops on the turnpike involve black drivers.
Before 1999,
when New Jersey agreed to allow a federal monitor to oversee the force,
the best available data showed that
about 27 percent of all turnpike stops involved black drivers,
although troopers were allowed to ignore rules
that they record the driver’s race in each stop,
so many analysts suspect that the actual percentage was far higher.

While the new report
has only been officially circulated at the Justice Department
and among top officials in the state attorney general’s office,
word of its results are being whispered about in state police barracks
and have cheered those who argue that
racial profiling has been exaggerated by lawyers and journalists.

“People who are being stopped are being stopped
because of the way they’re operating their vehicles,
not because of their race,”
said David Jones,
vice president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association,
who has not seen the report.

When New Jersey officials prepared to release the report in January,
Mark Posner, a lawyer with the Justice Department’s special litigation section,
asked the state attorney general’s office to withhold it.
Mr. Posner wrote that he feared that
the report’s results may have been skewed by factors like
glare on windshields, weather and camera placements on roadsides.

“Based on the questions we have identified,
it may well be that the results reported in the draft report
are wrong or unreliable,” Mr. Posner wrote.

The company, Public Service Research Institute,
says the research methods are sound and that
none of those factors would have affected the results
because they would not have affected black drivers any more than other drivers.

“We’re quite confident in the validity of the report,”
said Robert B. Voas, a senior researcher on the project,
who would discuss only the methodology of the study.
“If we were allowed to release it,
we’re confident it would be approved by peer review and be published.”

The Justice Department also raised concerns about
which photos were eliminated from the study,
because researchers discarded photos if no evaluators agreed on a driver’s race,
but included a photo if two of three agreed.
So the consulting firm performed another analysis of the data,
using only those cases in which there was unanimous agreement,
and the racial breakdown of speeders was virtually identical.

Researchers have acknowledged one apparent weakness in the study:
Only 4.8 percent of the drivers in the photo study were classified as Hispanic,
compared with
14.2 percent of the drivers who identified themselves as Hispanic
during a survey the firm conducted two years ago
by interviewing 4,000 drivers as they stopped to pay tolls.
But the combined total of white and Hispanic drivers was the same in both studies,
as was the number of blacks.
The study’s authors suggest that
Hispanic drivers may have been undercounted in the photo/radar study
because evaluators identified some Hispanic drivers as white.

Troopers’ union officials said that
the study is being held to an unduly high standard
because its findings weaken the Justice Department’s contention that
racial profiling is pervasive on the turnpike.
The most in-depth previous study of New Jersey roadways,
conducted by professors from Temple and Carnegie Mellon Universities in 1994,
classified the race of drivers on the turnpike
by stationing students on the roadside with binoculars.
Troopers argued that the 1994 study, which concluded that
blacks were four times more likely to be stopped than whites,
received far less public scrutiny,
even though it used far less rigorous scientific methods.

K. Jack Riley, director of criminal justice research at the Rand Institute,
said he considered the methods in the new study “a good start”
because cameras and teams of evaluators were used to reduce human error.
But he said researchers’ inability
to determine the race of nearly one-third of those drivers who were photographed
will very likely leave the study open to questions.
He suggested that
a second camera be used in future studies to photograph license plates,
allowing researchers to double-check the race of drivers.

Authors of the study offered two theories
to explain why they found more speeding by blacks.
Demographic research has shown that
the black population is younger than the white population,
and younger drivers are more likely to speed.
The researchers also wrote that
their survey of drivers two years ago found that
black drivers were more likely
to be from out of state and driving long distances than whites,
and those factors might make them more prone to speed.

Whatever the reasons for the speeding rates found in the study,
civil rights advocates and lawyers said
they cannot obscure the state’s acknowledgment that
racial profiling was an accepted tactic in the department for years.

“Even if it turns out that
there was evidence that blacks drive differently from whites,
it doesn’t account for the fact that
blacks are four or five times more likely to be searched,”
said William H. Buckman, a lawyer who won
the first New Jersey case in which
a judge acknowledged the existence of racial profiling.
“It also doesn’t account for the fact that
state police gave a handout
giving troopers a whole list of traffic violations
to use as a pretext for racial profiling.
There is so much out there
that no one can credibly deny that racial profiling is a reality.”

2008 Fairfax Schools Behavioral Study Controversy

Behavioral Study on Students Stirs Debate
Fairfax Report Finds Possible Racial Bias
By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post, 2008-04-10

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

For public schools in the No Child Left Behind era,
it has become routine to analyze test scores and other academic indicators
by race and ethnicity.
But the Fairfax County School Board, to promote character education,
has discovered the pitfalls of applying the same analytical techniques
to measures of student behavior,
especially when the findings imply
disparities in behavior among racial, ethnic and other groups.

The county School Board, which oversees
one of the country’s largest and most diverse suburban school systems,
is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to accept
a staff report that concludes, in part, that
black and Hispanic students and special education students received lower marks
than white and Asian American students
for demonstration of “sound moral character and ethical judgment.”

Such findings have prompted a debate on
the potential bias in how teachers evaluate student behavior
and how the school system analyzes and presents information about race.
Board member Martina A. “Tina” Hone (At Large), who is African American,
called the school system’s decision to break down data by race
“potentially damaging and hurtful.”

[I, for one, think that what is truly “damaging and hurtful”
is to fail to recognize such discrepancies, if they exist.
The first step to curing a problem is recognizing that the problem exists.
The second step is to not blame the problem on a false cause.]

The report on student achievement under “Essential Life Skills,”
first presented to the board March 27,
quantifies the moral-ethical gap this way:
“Grade 3 students who received ‘Good’ or better
ranged from a low near 80 percent . . . for Black and Special Education students,
to about 95 percent . . . for Asian and White students.”
The report also indicated that
Hispanic third-graders scored 86 percent on the measure.

The findings on third-grade morality reflected
the number of elementary students
who received “good” or “outstanding” marks on report cards
in such areas as
“accepts responsibility,”
“listens to and follows directions,”
“respects personal and school property,”
“complies with established rules” and
“follows through on assignments.”
Such categories, which draw mainly on teacher observations, are common.

For older students, the report’s findings on moral character
were based on the number of state-reported disciplinary infractions,
a measure where minority students tend to be overrepresented.
Disparities among groups were found, however,
to be slimmer for eighth-graders and negligible for 12th-graders.

The analysis also reported gaps among groups of students in skills such as
being able to “contribute effectively within a group dynamic,”
resolve conflicts and
make healthy life choices.

School officials said they were seeking to broaden the definition of student achievement and devise new ways to measure progress toward key goals
to prepare a 21st-century workforce.

[Hey, come on!
There is nothing new about the requirement for sound personal character
to be a good citizen.
When I was a Boy Scout, decades ago, becoming an Eagle Scout
required earning merit badges in
Citizenship in the Home, Community, Nation, and World (four merit badges in all).
The point is there is more to becoming a good citizen
than just being a good worker.
But the leaders of today’s society seem remarkably unwilling to talk about that.]

Officials acknowledge that their initial findings are not conclusive.
Hone intends to propose that a vote on the report be delayed
until the School Board and staff members
have had time to discuss the merits of data analysis according to race.

[I.e.: Until the black community has time to do its lobbying and politicking.]

“We have to be very, very careful about [how] the story is being told
and have all kinds of asterisks and footnotes, and say,
‘We recognize that some of this might not be the child’s fault,’ ”
Hone said at the March 27 meeting.

In an interview later she said,
“There is a fundamental difference between looking at race
vis-a-vis the achievement gap in academics, where you have hard data,”
and gaps in areas subject to possible teacher bias.

The Fairfax school system is the region’s largest,
with more than 165,700 students. About
48 percent are white,
11 percent black,
17 percent Hispanic and
18 percent Asian American, and
6 percent are listed as other or unspecified.
Two of the board’s 12 members belong to racial or ethnic minorities.

The Fairfax initiative, prompted by the board,
comes as schools nationwide are pushing to enhance character education,
emphasizing the teaching of social and emotional skills.
The thinking is that students need more than reading and math skills
mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

“More districts are finding that just focusing on [test scores]
is not getting them there,” [where?]
said Merle Schwartz, director of education and research at the Character Education Partnership, an advocacy group in Washington.
“There is something missing.
But how to do this systematically and how to measure it?
We don’t have all the answers yet.”

In 2006, after 33 public meetings,
the board approved the goals for life skills
and sought to define behavior that reflects sound moral character, such as
“Model honesty and integrity” and
“Respect people, property and authority.”
School officials, at the board’s direction,
then hunted for relevant indicators to measure progress and analyzed them.

In some cases,
sufficient data were not available to make a meaningful analysis of some goals.
Officials said they intend to revise report cards
and create surveys for teachers, students and high school graduates
to assess life-skills goals.

School Board Chairman Daniel G. Storck (Mount Vernon) emphasized that
the analysis is preliminary and acknowledged that
the board needs to evaluate whether a race-based analysis is appropriate
and helps the board further its goal
of helping every child in the school system acquire these skills.

“What we are doing [now] and we are doing three years from now
will probably be pretty different,” he said.

Schools Superintendent Jack D. Dale said some administrators
were “surprised” by the findings that emerged from the analysis.
He said looking more deeply into the data
could lead to new understanding about
social and cultural differences in students,
something he views as critical
in a system with students from about 200 countries.
[The pains and sorrows of multiculturalism.]

Board member Ilryong Moon (At Large), a Korean American, said
he was “perplexed” that
disparities in measures of character education
seemed to echo academic achievement gaps.

Educators typically examine racial and ethnic patterns in academic data
to spot problems and direct resources to students who need them most.
Members of the NAACP‘s Fairfax chapter criticized
the school system’s use of such methods
for the character education analysis.

“I don’t think you can classify a whole group
and say they have lower character or morality,”
said Janice Winters, a member of the chapter’s education committee.
“It sends a poor message to the students:
‘Oh, I’m black, and they don’t expect me to behave.’ ”

Winters said the school system should take steps to ensure that
teachers are unbiased in their assessment of students.
“That has been an issue over time,” she said.

Some school officials agreed with the importance of teacher training.
They said, for example,
that there should be a more uniform definition of disruptive behavior.

Moon and some other board members said
it is valuable to learn about differences in the way students are being assessed.

“Do we just brush this aside as if it never existed
or do we do something constructive?” Moon said.

Moon said he wants school officials to study whether teachers
“have a full understanding of whom they teach,
and their different learning styles and family backgrounds.”

A Report on Moral Character Best Left Behind
By Marc Fisher
Washington Post, 2008-04-10

Fairfax Postpones Vote About Student Behavior Study
By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post, 2008-04-11

Fairfax May Junk Study on Behavior
Staff Report Shows Racial, Ethnic Gaps Among Students
By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post, 2008-06-05


Some racial profiling is more equal than others
by Gregory Kane
Washington Examiner, 2009-07-26

From the years 1999-2002 I, then in my late 40s,
spent nearly every weekend speeding up the New Jersey Turnpike,
ground zero for racial profiling,
according to the [Jesse] Jacksons of the country.
I regularly did 20 mph above the speed limit in my 1992 Honda and
never got stopped once.

[Note: Kane is a black man.]


A Court Rule Directs Cases Over Friskings to One Judge
New York Times, 2013-05-06

[This article is not about the issues involved with racial profiling per se,
but about the legal tactic an evidently quite liberal judge has used
to ensure that she she hears cases on the issue.
Here are some samples from the article:]


Judge Scheindlin has come to exercise near exclusive jurisdiction
in deciding whether the Police Department’s policies
adhere to Fourth Amendment restrictions for officers conducting street stops.


In a city with dozens of Federal District Court judges, it is striking that
a single judge has so many opportunities to rule on
one of the Police Department’s signature crime-fighting tactics —
a development that has frustrated city officials.


‘Stop and frisk’ is not racial profiling
By Michael R. Bloomberg (Mayor of New York City)
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2013-08-19

Court Blocks Stop-and-Frisk Changes for New York Police
New York Times, 2013-11-01

A federal appeals court on Thursday halted a sweeping set of changes to the New York Police Department’s policy of stopping and frisking people on the street, and, in strikingly personal terms, criticized the trial judge’s conduct in the litigation and removed her from the case.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, “ran afoul” of the judiciary’s code of conduct by compromising the “appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation.” The panel criticized how she had steered the lawsuit to her courtroom when it was filed in early 2008.

The ruling effectively puts off a battery of changes that Judge Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, had ordered for the Police Department. It postpones the operations of the monitor who was asked to oversee reforms to the department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which Judge Scheindlin found violated the Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.

In a two-page order, the panel of three judges also criticized Judge Scheindlin for granting media interviews and for making public statements while the case was pending before her.


The judges ordered that the stop-and-frisk lawsuit be reassigned to another judge. The Second Circuit ruling instructs the new judge to put off “all proceedings and otherwise await further action” from the circuit. The panel has not yet taken up whether Judge Scheindlin’s decision reached the correct conclusion.

“In taking these actions, we intimate no view on the substance or merits of the pending appeals,” the two-page order stated.


In its ruling, the panel cited an article by The New York Times in a footnote, criticizing the judge for improperly applying a “related-case rule” to bring the stop-and-frisk case under her purview.



Georgetown social network accused of racial profiling is suspended
By Terrence McCoy
Washington Post, 2015-10-19


Thousands of messages and hundreds of pictures have deluged the group since February of last year, when the business organization partnered with D.C. police to launch the operation in an attempt to curb shoplifting in one of the nation’s poshest shopping districts.
Approximately 70 percent of that correspondence between January and September cited blacks.
About 90 percent of the photographs posted in the group showed African Americans.

[Notice how this article, and its predecessors,
never mention the percentage of arrests for shoplifting which involve blacks.
That clearly is a relevant statistic to the issue of profiling.
Indeed, if one makes the reasonable supposition
that poor people are more likely than the wealthy to shoplift
(I know there are exceptions, but we are talking probabilities, not absolutes),
and notes that blacks have a higher poverty rate than whites,
than simply by those facts blacks would be more likely to shoplift.]


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