Racial Profiling and the RPI III

From a poster on a discussion group I subscribe to with regard to “racial” profiling and the Racial Privacy Initiative:

genizizi” wrote:

Oh yes, it most certainly did. It stated that departments would not be required to submit reports of their racial profiling practices. The Prop may not have outright stated it as “racial profiling”, but the language inicates what I’ve pointed out just the same.


Wrong again.

The first section of the RPI language on law enforcement states:

“Nothing in this section shall prevent law enforcement officers, while carrying out their law enforcement duties, from describing particular persons in otherwise lawful ways.”

Notice the key words DESCRIBING and PARTICULAR PERSONS. This is simple stuff. This is not permission to commit “racial” profiling, this is permission to track the “race” of suspects and crime victims for purposes of DESCRIBING them. This section, for instance, can be used for sending out APBs, descriptions of suspects from witnesses, missing persons, John and Jane Doe dead bodies, etc. So, let’s stop with the intentional distortions. DESCRIBING PARTICULAR PERSONS (specific individuals) and profiling entire subpopulations based on “race” (“racial” profiling) are two entirely different concepts. And you know it. So much for the argument that it “allows” such “racial” profiling.

The second section of the RPI language on law enforcement states:

“Neither the governor, the legislature nor any statewide agency shall require law enforcement officers to maintain records that track individuals on the basis of said classifications, nor shall the governor, the legislature or any statewide agency withhold funding to law enforcement agencies on the basis of the failure to maintain such records.”

All this says is that no laws requiring collection of data can be passed, nor can funding be withheld. If the Democratic Party dominated state legislature and Democratic Governor had felt that such tracking was needed, then California would already be doing it. As such the Democrats who control the legislature and the outgoing Governor have had a free hand to pass such laws for quite a few years now. Further, nothing in that language prevents a court from ordering any law enforcement agency to collect such data in conjunction with a verdict, inquiry or subpoena. If this is your silver bullet “gotcha”, why hasn’t this happened yet?

I’ll tell you why. The vast majority of “racial” profiling scandals have been brought to light WITHOUT statistical data. Even the New Jersey scandal was originally brought to light without statistical data. It was further cemented when documentation showing that the state policy taught “racial” profiling to employees was brought to light. In other words, those cops without respect for the Bill of Rights and civil liberties were exposed without box-checking and forms. An illegal traffic stop is an illegal traffic stop. There is no two way about it. Box checking doesn’t change that.

Media coverage, anecdotal evidence and lawsuits challenging specific traffic stops, bodily and property searches, etc. based on 4th and 5th Amendment protections have reaped more benefits in the war on “racial” profiling than any box-checking has ever accomplished. Discovery (via FOIA and subpoena) of training materials that promote policing via “racial” profiling also played a big role in the New Jersey case. Such discoveries indicate INTENT, which holds more weight in court than statistics which can be massaged to say anything that a statistician wishes them to say. Give me 100 statisticians and the exact same data and you can get 100 different conclusions and views on said data. Its all subject to interpretation. Intent – which is required in order for “racial” profiling to exist, is not proven via box-checking, it is proven via training manuals, testimony, internal correspondence, and established policies. Box-checking isn’t proof, it’s a collection of numbers. Lets not willfully confuse intent with result. Profiling is a result of intent, statistics are simply a collection of numbers that are subject to wide-ranging interpretation and abuse. There is a difference.

All that said, so long as there is tons of money to gained for local police departments, “racial” profiling of those with lower incomes and less access to legal counsel in more urban areas will continue via The Drug War.

This entry also posted at Yahoo! Groups – Swirl.

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