The Corner

Another Day, Another Obama DOJ Attempt to Politicize and Racialize Criminal Justice

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Justice Department would start collecting racial data on police stops and arrests. The effort is part of the Obama administration’s war on phantom racism, a colossal waste of taxpayer resources and a depressing diversion from the real problems affecting black and Hispanic populations. 

According to the NAACP, the ACLU, and now, the Justice Department, the fact that the police stop and arrest blacks and Hispanics at higher rates than whites demonstrates police racism. The Justice Department’s press release, like all such anti-cop propaganda, assiduously ignores the crucial fact that blacks and Hispanics commit crime at much higher rates than whites as well. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17, for example, commit homicide at ten times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined; if Hispanics were taken out of the equation (which federal data makes it difficult to do), the disparity between the white and black homicide rates would be even higher. Given such racial disparities in crime rates, the police cannot fight lawlessness without producing disproportionate stop and arrest figures. 

Holder fingered as bigots not just the police, but the entire criminal-justice system as well: 

A recent study, [Holder said], reported that half of African-American men have been arrested at least once by age 23. Overall, black men were 6 times, and Latino men were 2.5 times, more likely to be imprisoned than white men in 2012

This overrepresentation of young men of color in our criminal justice system is a problem we must confront—not only as an issue of individual responsibility but also as one of fundamental fairness, and as an issue of effective law enforcement. Racial disparities contribute to tension in our nation generally and within communities of color specifically, and tend to breed resentment towards law enforcement that is counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime.

Criminologists have spent decades trying to prove that the overrepresentation of blacks and Hispanic in prison demonstrates that the criminal justice system is racist. And each time they fail. Even the most left-wing academics have been forced to admit that crime, not race, determines criminal justice outcomes. 

Criminologists Robert Sampson and Janet Lauritsen, for example, reviewed the massive literature on charging and sentencing in 1997 and concluded that “large racial differences in criminal offending,” not racism, explained why more blacks were in prison proportionately than whites and for longer terms. Michael Tonry seconded that judgment in Malign Neglect: “Racial differences in patterns of offending, not racial bias by police and other officials, are the principal reason that such greater proportions of blacks than whites are arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned.” In 2012, the year that Holder singles out, blacks committed over 49 percent of all murders, and 55 percent of all robberies, according to arrest data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, though they are less than 13 percent of the population, compared to 48 percent of murders and 43 percent of robberies committed by whites and Hispanics combined. 

Holder, however, is wholly silent about crime rates and instead has the gall to suggest that the nation’s hardworking “police and other justice system agencies” are not treating minorities “fairly.” Such a misrepresentation is all the more appalling coming from the nation’s top law-enforcement official. 

The DOJ’s new $4.75 million initiative will have no effect on crime and the resulting overrepresentation of blacks and Hispanics in the criminal-justice system. It will, however, inhibit sound policing and further exacerbate racial tensions by putting the federal imprimatur on one of the biggest scams in racial agitation: the idea that law enforcement activity is motivated by bias, not crime. 

If President Obama and Holder actually wanted to lower racial tensions, they would publicize the crime rates that drive policing and prosecution and then focus on the family breakdown and resulting lack of social control that leads to such elevated rates of minority crime.

— Heather Mac Donald is the Tom Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of Are Cops Racist?

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