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(en) US, The Agitator Index* - Racial Profiling: Fact, Fiction, and Function By Kristiam Williams

Date Sat, 08 Apr 2006 15:03:46 +0300


On February 4, 1999, Amadou Diallo, a 22-year-old West African
immigrant, was killed by New York City police while standing in
front of his own home. The four cops -- Sean Carrol, Edward
McMellon, Kenneth Boss, and Richard Murphy -- fired a total of 41
shots. Nineteen hit him. Diallo was unarmed, and had committed no
crime. (1) He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Black.
Stephen Worth, a lawyer for the Patrolman's Benevolent Association
explained the shooting: "He is acting strange, he fits the rapist's
description in a generic way. . . . The reason they are shooting him is
they think he has a gun." (2) Worth refused to elaborate on Diallo's
"strange" behavior, the "description" he matched, or why the police
would think he was armed. But witnesses later helped to fit the
shooting into a broader pattern; they told The Village Voice that
earlier in the evening the same officers -- members of the elite Street
Crimes Unit -- were stopping and searching numerous Black men,
seemingly at random. (3)

Amadou Diallo was not a criminal. He was not, in any real sense, a
suspect. He matched a "generic" description. He fit the profile. He
was a young Black man, and that was enough. He became, quite
literally, a target. The police gunned him down as he stood in his
doorway. They fired 41 shots.

Consequences of Racial Profiling

Diallo's shooting represents only one cost of racial profiling -- the
losses calculated in terms of bodies, bullet holes, scars, and stitches.
But there are other victims, other costs, counted in years, marked off
in cell blocks, ringed with razor wire. Race-based policing
contributes to the over-representation of minorities (especially
Blacks) in the criminal justice system. According to a 1997 Justice
Department report, "Lifetime Likelihood of Going to State or Federal
Prison," 16.2% of Blacks and 9.4% of Hispanics will be imprisoned
during their lifetime, as compared to 5.1% of the total population and
2.5% of whites. The figures focusing exclusively on men are even
more startling: an individual Black man has a greater than
one-in-four chance of being imprisoned during his lifetime (28.5%),
as compared to one-in-six for Hispanic men (16%), and one-in-23
for white men (4.4%). (4)

Table: Percentage of US males likely to ever go to preason
http://www.agitatorindex.org/articles/images/profiling_graph.gif


Black 28.5%

Hyspanic 16.0%

All males 9.0%

White 4.4%

Racial Profiing Graph(5)

When the statistics reflect recidivism rates, the disparity grows:
"Among non-Hispanic men, blacks are 6.5 times more likely than
whites to serve some time in prison during their life, but 8.7 times
more likely to be in prison on any 1 day. . . ." (6) These numbers
may give some indication as to why racial profiling persists despite
its demonstrable failure as a tool for stopping crime: Police and
prisons have replaced patrols and plantations as the means by which
white society maintains its control over Black people. (7)

The Empirical Evidence

Every competent study has reached the same conclusion: Racial
profiling is a fact.

Following a 1995 lawsuit, the Maryland State Police were required to
keep data on every traffic stop that led to a search. Temple
University's John Lamberth analyzed the data from 1995 and 1996.
He found that while Blacks represent 17% of Maryland's driving
population and can be observed to drive no differently than whites,
72% of those stopped and searched were Black. Fully one-half of the
Maryland State Police traffic officers stopped Blacks in at least 80%
of their stops. One officer stopped Blacks in 95% of his stops, and
two only stopped Blacks. (8)

Likewise, a 1999 Ohio state legislator's review of 1996 and 1997
court records revealed that Black drivers in Akron were 2.04 times as
likely as all other drivers to receive tickets. In Toledo, they were 2.02
times as likely; and in Columbus and Dayton, 1.8 times. (9)
Researchers with North Carolina State University found that in 1998,
Blacks were 68% more likely than whites to be searched by the
North Carolina Highway Patrol. (10) And a 2002 Justice Department
report concluded that, nationwide, "Police were more likely to
conduct a search of the vehicle and/or driver in traffic stops involving
black male drivers (15.9%) or Hispanic male drivers (14.2%),
compared to white male drivers (7.9%)." (11)

More recently, the Boston Globe analyzed 764,065 traffic tickets
from the period April 2001 to November 2002 and found that Blacks
and Hispanics are ticketed at a rate twice that of their portion of the
Massachusetts population. And once ticketed, Blacks are 50% more
likely than whites to have their cars searched.(12) Likewise, the
LAPD's statistics from July to November 2002 show that Black
motorists were stopped at rates far outstripping their portion of the
local population: 18% of the drivers pulled over were Black, while
Blacks make up only 10.9% of the city's populace. Of those pulled
over, Blacks and Latinos were significantly more likely to be
removed from the car than were whites: 22% of Blacks and 22% of
Latinos were removed from the vehicle, as opposed to 7% of whites.
And once out of their cars, Blacks and Latinos were more likely to be
searched: 85% of Blacks and 84% of Latinos were searched, as
compared to 71% of whites. (13)

Explaining Racial Profiling

Law enforcement administrators sometimes seek to justify these
practices by appealing to racist conceptions of crime and criminality.
In 1999, the New Jersey Attorney General's office issued a report
showing that during the two previous years (1997 and 1998), 40% of
motorists stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike and 80% of those
searched were minorities. (14) According to Carl Williams, the
superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, that's because "The
drug problem is mostly cocaine and marijuana. It is most likely a
minority group that's involved with that." (15)

The evidence shows otherwise. In fact, it demonstrates that race is
useless as an indicator of criminality. In Maryland, where 70% of
those searched were Black, the rate at which searches produced
evidence of a crime was about the same for Blacks as for whites --
28.4% and 28.8%, respectively. (16) While Blacks and Latinos
accounted for 78% of those searched at the south end of the New
Jersey Turnpike during the year 2000, evidence was more reliably
found by searching whites: 25% of whites searched had contraband,
as compared to 13% of Blacks and 5% of Latinos.(17) According the
1998 North Carolina study, 26% of those Blacks searched, and 33%
of the whites searched, were found to possess contraband. (18) In
Massachusetts, 16% of whites searched were found to possess
drugs, as compared to 12% of Blacks and 10% of Hispanics. (19)

The evidence absolutely contradicts the idea that racial profiling is
useful in getting drugs, or guns, or criminals, off the streets. If we
insist on viewing the police as crime-fighters, profiling can only be
seen as a mistake, a persistent disaster. But if we suspend or
surrender this noble view of police work, and look instead at the
actual consequences of what the cops do, profiling makes a certain
kind of sense; it follows a sinister logic. Racial profiling is not about
crime at all; it's about controlling people of color.


Kristian Williams is a member of Rose City Copwatch, in Portland,
Oregon. This essay is taken from his book, Our Enemies in Blue:
Police and Power in America (Soft Skull Press, 2004). In 2005,
Bring The Ruckus sponsored Williams' west-coast tour to promote
Enemies and discuss resistance to the criminal justice system.

Williams' latest book, American Methods: Torture and the Logic of
Domination (South End Press, 2006), relates the American
government's use of torture overseas to the practices of prison
guards and police in the U.S. itself.

For more information, visit: www.rosecitycopwatch.org,
www.softskull.com, and www.southendpress.
End Notes:

1. Michael Cooper, "Officers in Bronx Fire 41 Shots, And an
Unarmed Man is Killed" New York Times (February 5, 1999) A1;
and Robert D. McFadden and Kit R. Roane, "U.S. Examining Killing
of Man in Police Custody" New York Times (February 6, 1999) B6.

2. Quoted in McFadden and Roane (February 6, 1999) B6.

3. Peter Noel, "When Clothes Make the Suspect: Portraits in Racial
Profiling," Village Voice
(March 15-21, 2000) <www.villagevoice.com/issues/0011/noel.php>
[viewed April 23, 2002].

4.Thomas P. Bonczar and Allen J. Beck, "Lifetime Likelihood of
Going to State or Federal Prison" Bureau of Justice Statistics Special
Report (United States Department of Justice: March 1997) 1.

5.Bonczar and Beck (1997) 1.

6. Bonczar and Beck (1997) 7.

7.Michael Stephen Hindus, Prison and Plantation: Crime, Justice,
and Authority in Massachusetts and South Carolina, 1768-1878
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980) 248.

8.Harris (2002) 61-2.

9. Harris (2002) 68.

10. Harris (2002) 80-1.

11. Erica Leah Schmitt, et al., "Characteristics of Drivers Stopped by
Police, 1999" (United States Department of Justice: March 2002) 1.

12. Bill Dedman and Francie Latour, "Traffic Citations Reveal
Disparity" Boston Globe (January 6, 2003) [database: NewsBank
Full-Text Newspapers, viewed January 26, 2003].

13. Tina Duant and Jill Leovy, "LAPD Offers 1st Data on Traffic
Stops" Los Angeles Times (January 7, 2003)
<www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lapd7jan07.story> [viewed
January 7, 2003].

14. Harris (2002) 59.

15. Quoted in Harris (2002) 58.

16. Harris (2002) 80.

17. Harris (2002) 80.

18. Harris (2002) 80-1.

19. Dedman and Latour (January 6, 2003).

http://www.agitatorindex.org/articles/racial_profiling.htm
=====================================
* E-Journal of the Bring The Rukus who
is an antiauthotitarian anticapitalist
direct action revolutionary initiative.
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