Politics & Policy

Driving While Liberal

The racial-profiling myth refuses to die.

Several months ago, before the American military surge in Iraq began to reap the benefits now plainly evident to all but the Left’s most willfully myopic, Rush Limbaugh predicted on his radio program that the Iraq war would not be a major factor in the 2008 presidential election. “Don’t doubt me,” he exhorts his listeners, but given the state of affairs in Iraq at that time, this struck me as wildly optimistic, even for Mr. Limbaugh. Count me among the humbly chastened. I should have known better.

So now, with even the New York Times all but forced to report on the improvements seen on the ground in Iraq, Democrats find themselves deprived of the issue they only recently hoped would carry them back to the White House next year. Instead they must now trot out more familiar, shall we say evergreen, grievances to rail and carry on about, such as health care (of which they will say there is too little), homelessness (too much), and our topic for today, racial profiling (appallingly commonplace).

Auditioning for a supporting role in the forthcoming discussion of racial profiling is Rep. Danny Davis, Democrat of Illinois. During the early morning hours of November 19, Rep. Davis was stopped and cited by Chicago police officers for driving to the left of the center of the roadway. Davis, whom few outside his district, and perhaps even within it, had ever heard of prior to the incident, went on a media blitz worthy of Al Sharpton himself to proclaim to the world that he had been wrongly treated, that he had been stopped by two white police officers for no other reason than for being black. “I hope that this was some kind of isolated instance,” Davis told CBS 2 in Chicago, “but I know in my heart of hearts, I know that it’s not.”

Of course he does.

To believe Rep. Davis’s accusation one must accept all of the following as fact: a) that the police officers who stopped him were able to discern, in the early morning darkness, that Davis and the other three occupants in the car were black, b) that the officers’ allegation that Davis’s car had crossed over the center line was simply made up out of whole cloth, and c) that even after becoming aware of Davis’s position (he had made a point of informing the officers of such), the officers elected to continue down the path of corruption and cite him on a fabricated charge, this despite the sure knowledge of the controversy that awaited them. Also, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the West Side Chicago neighborhood where the stop took place is more than a third black, so even if the officers had known the race of the car’s occupants prior to making the stop, they hardly would have considered it anomalous.

I propose a simpler explanation: that Davis did in fact veer a bit over the center line, and that the officers suspected him, given the hour of the morning and the city’s reputation for revelry, of being under the influence of alcohol. After failing to detect any signs of impairment, but instead detecting abundant evidence of don’t-you-know-who-I-am haughtiness, they went ahead and wrote him up. And to the great credit of the Chicago Police Department, when Davis went to the station to register a complaint, he was advised to go to traffic court and tell it to the judge. Davis says he will do just that; his appearance is scheduled for December 28.

In making his claim of racial profiling, Davis is following a familiar and very often successful script. Victims, be they of racism, sexism, or any other brand of ism one can conjure up, are immune from the consequences of their behavior, whether it be a minor traffic violation or double murder, and indeed are even immune from criticism for it. Not long ago, here in Los Angeles, I was presented with a vivid example of a traffic violator who, like Rep. Davis, was attempting to cloak himself in the comforting and immunizing mantle of victimhood. I was one of several officers to respond to a traffic stop that had become, to understate the matter considerably, a bit heated. Remarkably, the driver admitted he had committed the violation he was accused of, but he nonetheless insisted he had been stopped because he was black. (You could stand on the sidewalk where the stop was made and, if you didn’t count the cops, wait for years for a white person to drive by.)

Writing in City Journal back in 2001, the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald eviscerated what she called the “anti-‘racial-profiling’ juggernaut.” In an essay titled “The Myth of Racial Profiling,” Mac Donald wrote, “The anti-profiling crusade thrives on an ignorance of policing and a willful blindness to the demographics of crime.” Yet the myth stubbornly refuses to die, and indeed it thrives when it suits the purposes of such as Rep. Davis. Here in Los Angeles, for example, a member of the civilian police commission, despite having not a shred of supporting evidence, insists that racial profiling is endemic within the LAPD.

Commissioner John Mack, of whom I have written before, finds it disturbing that not a single one of the 850 racial-profiling complaints investigated by the LAPD between 2003 and 2006 was sustained. “I’m not suggesting that every allegation [of profiling] is a valid one,” Mack said in January 2007, “but I find it strange that we consistently never have a finding of one sustained complaint.” To my knowledge Mack has never bothered to go on even a single a ride-along with the officers he suspects of this pernicious behavior, but he hopes to expose it, at the cost of millions and millions of dollars, through the installation of video cameras in the LAPD’s patrol cars. Perhaps the cameras will be valuable, if only to prove to Mr. Mack just how wrong he is, but that money might be better spent to replace our aging hand-held radios, which make wonderful paperweights but are all too often otherwise worthless.

Yes, the racial-profiling discussion is with us still, and thanks to Rep. Davis we can expect to hear a lot more about it in the weeks and months ahead. Now, if we could only devise a way to identify cars driven by Democratic congressmen, then you’d really see some profiling.

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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