New DOJ data confirming that minorities receive harsher treatment than whites during traffic stops came as no surprise to us. Last week I discussed the study, warning that DOJ’s poor reporting could embolden racial profiling apologists, despite the obvious disparities revealed in the data. Unfortunately, I was right.
Profiling skeptic Steve Chapman now exploits DOJ’s report in a widely published editorial that’s as sloppy as it is wrong:
Why would black drivers be arrested more often? Maybe because African-Americans commit crimes at a far higher rate and are convicted of felonies at a far higher rate. In 2005, for instance, blacks were nearly seven times more likely to be in prison than whites.
This is textbook circular reasoning of the sort that will earn you an F in Philosophy 101. By Chapman’s logic, police could stop investigating white people entirely and we’d soon see that minorities commit 100% of all crimes.
By relying on the argument that increased searches of minorities are justified by their criminality, Chapman exposes his own unfamiliarity with the data he’s discussing. The previous DOJ report, released in 2005, addresses this issue directly:
Likelihood of search finding criminal evidence
Searches of black drivers or their vehicles were less likely to find criminal evidence (3.3%) than searches of white drivers (14.5%), and somewhat less likely than searches of Hispanic drivers
This data comes straight from a report referenced by Chapman, yet he insists that “a motorist of felonious habits is also more likely to have illegal guns or drugs on board,” and “the average black driver is statistically more likely to be a criminal than the average white driver.”
The great irony here is that Chapman offers his made up statements about the heightened criminality of minorities while arguing that racial profiling doesn’t exist. His premise fundamentally endorses profiling and any officer who agrees with him is highly vulnerable to the exact behavior Chapman denies. It is really just priceless to find gratuitous racial stereotypes in an article about how the days of gratuitous racial stereotyping are behind us.