Politics & Policy

No Surprises in Lapd Traffic-Stop Data

But that doesn't stop the ACLU from carping.

On Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department released the first set of statistics regarding the ethnicity of motorists and pedestrians stopped and searched by LAPD officers between July and November of last year. The results were predictable, as was the reaction that greeted the publication of the data.

LAPD officers are required to record the ethnicity — among other information — on all drivers and pedestrians stopped for nearly any reason, from a traffic infraction to murder. The data released Monday showed that 38 percent of all drivers stopped were Latino, 33 percent were white, and 18 percent were black. The 2000 Census showed the city’s population is 46 percent Latino, 30 percent white, and 11 percent black, so the traffic-stop numbers are not wildly out of proportion to the city’s ethnic makeup, surely a disappointment to the anti-racial-profiling crowd.

But things get interesting when one examines the data on drivers who are asked to exit their cars and subjected to a search. Of the drivers pulled over, 7 percent of whites were asked to get out of their cars, compared with 22 percent of Latinos and 22 percent of blacks. Of the drivers asked to exit their cars, 67 percent of the blacks were patted down for weapons and 85 percent were subjected to some sort of search. Fifty-five percent of the Latinos were patted down and 84 percent were searched, while 50 percent of whites were frisked and 71 percent were searched.

In reporting on these numbers, the Los Angeles Times naturally went in search of controversy, so their reporter hit the speed-dial button for the ACLU, the spokesman for which of course interpreted the numbers as evidence of racial profiling.

“It’s been our expectation based on our experience that racial profiling exists,” ACLU attorney Catherine Lhamon told the Times. “The data released today confirm that belief . . . If you look at what happens after people have been stopped, there is no question that there is differential treatment based on skin color.”

Hogwash, poppycock, and tommyrot.

If one accepts homicide statistics as a benchmark for violent crime, i.e. the crime police officers should most concern themselves with, there is an unpleasant truth staring Ms. Lhamon and her fellow anti-profiling acolytes straight in the snoot: Of the more than 600 murders committed in Los Angeles in 2002, about 90 percent were committed by blacks and Latinos, with each group responsible for about 45 percent, give or take a dead body or two here and there. The rest were divided among whites, Asians, and “others.” Other categories of violent crime stack up in much the same manner. In other words, in deciding whether to order an occupant from a vehicle or conduct a search, police officers rely on information that may be coincidental to skin color, but not dependent on it. To argue otherwise is to ignore the truth, something the ACLU and their ideological kin seem determined to do in their quest for cosmic justice. If the ACLU prevails in this debate, the results will be a less-effective police department and a rising number of murder victims, the majority of whom will be the minorities the ACLU purports to defend.

In the past few months I have written of L.A. Mayor James Hahn’s display of mettle in his decision to oust former Chief Bernard Parks from the LAPD and replace him with William Bratton. In dumping Parks, Hahn alienated many of the black voters who were at the core of his support in his 2001 election, perhaps jeopardizing his reelection chances in ‘05. That decision showed courage, but when reporters asked him to comment on the LAPD data, the mayor went characteristically wobbly.

“Some of the data we have had a chance to look at does raise some concerns for me,” Hahn said. “African Americans and Latinos are asked to exit their vehicles and are searched on a higher percentage than those of other races. At this point, we can’t tell all the factors that contributed to that disparity, but it’s a question we need answered.”

The answers, Mr. Mayor, are lying on the slabs over at the county morgue. Wander on over and have a look.

— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.


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