Don’t listen to Doug, again
I haven’t written for a while; I hope to be better in coming days. I have some catching up to do. There is no better place to start than with an op-ed piece by Doug Tice that appeared in the Sunday, February 22nd edition of the Star Tribune. That’s a while ago, I know, but a recent Justice Department report brings Tice’s writing that day back on the table.
It’s always hard to summarize Doug Tice; he can lay down words with a trowel, but this is in essence what he said in his op-ed:
In all this moaning and whining about racial bias and profiling in policing, we must — sadly — acknowledge that blacks commit most of the crime.
Yes, it gives Doug Tice no pleasure to acknowledge this regrettable but hard truth.
You will have to read the piece to see if you agree with my summary. But I think you will. Here’s a quote from the piece, commenting on remarks by FBI Director James Comey:
What did Comey say? He said that a lot of cops develop a racial bias as a result of their firsthand experience with the disproportionate criminality of young minority males.
“[P]olice officers on patrol in our nation’s cities,” Comey said, “often work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color. Something happens to people of goodwill working in that environment …
“A mental shortcut becomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lights,” Comey continued. “The two young black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up. Two white men on the other side of the street — even in the same clothes — do not. The officer does not make the same association about the two white guys, whether that officer is white or black. And that drives different behavior.”
Hard truths? Perhaps. Heresy? For sure. In this one passage, Comey broke two rigid rules that render most discussions of this issue safely unreal.
I was thinking about this a few days later, and it put me in mind of something I thought I read months ago — a year and a half ago as it turned out — about the relative rates of drug use betweens blacks and whites. I found it, and then set it aside on my desktop. It was an article in the Huffington Post. It turns out, according to the article:
White Americans are more likely than black Americans to have used most kinds of illegal drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and LSD. Yet blacks are far more likely to go to prison for drug offenses.
This discrepancy forms the backdrop of a new legislative proposal in California, which aims to reduce the disproportionate incarceration of black people in the state. Supporters of the bill, SB 649, point to some striking national data.
Nearly 20 percent of whites have used cocaine, compared with 10 percent of blacks and Latinos, according to a 2011 survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — the most recent data available.
Higher percentages of whites have also tried hallucinogens, marijuana, pain relievers like OxyContin, and stimulants like methamphetamine, according to the survey. Crack is more popular among blacks than whites, but not by much.
Still, blacks are arrested for drug possession more than three times as often as whites, according to a 2009 report from the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
Of the 225,242 people who were serving time in state prisons for drug offenses in 2011, blacks made up 45 percent and whites comprised just 30 percent, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
A stop and frisk or the tossing a car on a traffic stop are how many, maybe most, drug busts are made. Minorities are challenged on the streets and frisked more often, and stopped for “driving while black” far more often. If a police officer wants to stop you, s/he can find a reason, believe me: air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror, dirty and “obscured” license plate or a burned out license plate light, a pinhole in the lens of the taillight, and the list goes one.
The recent report of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department on policing and justice in Ferguson, Mo. really gives the lie to James Comey and Doug Tice, though. Here’s the CNN lede of its post of the report:
A Justice Department civil rights investigation has concluded that the Ferguson Police Department and the city’s municipal court engaged in a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against African-Americans, targeting them disproportionately for traffic stops, use of force, and jail sentences, according to a U.S. law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this is the Civil Rights Division, not the FBI.
Here’s what President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder said, commenting on the report:
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder both say Ferguson is actually not an outlier, that if you look at many police departments all over the country, you will find evidence of systemic disparities in ticketing and arrests of minorities. DOJ has investigated about 20 law enforcement agencies since Obama took office for alleged excessive force or otherwise unconstitutional policing.
You see, Director Comey, and Doug Tice, too, if you stop mostly minorities, you’ll wind up arresting more minorities, and it will make you suspicious of minorities. It’s a giant, sick, self-fulfilling prophecy.
Attorney General Holder called the police force and the municipal court in Ferguson a bunch of racists and money grubbers, rousting African-Americans to fill the city’s coffers. They tossed the cars of black motorists far more often, but found contraband less:
In 88% of the cases in which Ferguson police officers reported using force, it was against African-Americans. From 2012-2014 black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during traffic stops, but 26% less likely to be found in possession of contraband.
We can see that in Ferguson, even the self-fulfilling prophecy wasn’t true, but it didn’t stop the police and the court from ringing the cash register.
I’m glad I waited to write about this, because the Civil Rights Division did a much better job of responding to Doug Tice that I could have.
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