Drug War

The Drug War and the Crime of Driving (or Walking) While Black

Two recent studies show how color-conscious cops breed anger, resentment, and mistrust.

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A couple of weeks ago, Tim Scott, one of two blacks in the Senate and that chamber's only black Republican, shared with his colleagues some of his own racially tinged experiences with cops, trying to explain how the special scrutiny that black men tend to receive from the police breeds anger, resentment, and mistrust. "I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell," Scott said. In my latest Forbes column, I discuss recent research that reinforces such anecdotal evidence, finding large and robust racial disparities in the way police treat pedestrians and motorists:

The Democratic National Convention has provided a forum for Black Lives Matter activists, and in his speech on Wednesday night President Obama said "we've got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed."

At the Republican National Convention last week, by contrast, the party's presidential nominee came down firmly on the side of "law and order" (a phrase he used three times), repeatedly decried violence against the police, and said nothing about violence by the police. That stance, which Donald Trump consciously copied from Richard Nixon, was consistent with the billionaire bully's authoritarian tendencies but also with a Republican tradition of blindly defending police against criticism.

Even conservatives who are generally skeptical of "big government" and rarely reluctant to criticize its representatives tend to make an exception for public employees who wear uniforms and carry guns. That soft spot for armed agents of the state is not just philosophically inconsistent; it is empirically unjustified, as two recent studies of police behavior show. While one of the studies casts doubt on the claim that cops are quicker to shoot blacks than whites, they both confirm that encounters with police are racially skewed in ways that are hard to justify—a troubling pattern that is closely correlated with the war on drugs.

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  1. You don’t hear me complaining about the crime of being in the sun while white.

  2. While one of the studies casts doubt on the claim that cops are quicker to shoot blacks than whites, they both confirm that encounters with police are racially skewed in ways that are hard to justify?a troubling pattern that is closely correlated with the war on drugs.

    Can we just say this is bullshit? I have no doubt black people who did nothing wrong get harassed by cops because they have been profiled. It is simply disingenuous to claim there is no justification for that profile. Reason is doing what gun grabbers do here trying to mislead people with statistics that make apples to oranges comparisons.

    If we look at the percentage rate of blacks stopped by police to population percentage, it is obviously grossly skewed.

    If we look at the percentage rate of blacks stopped by police and compare it to the rate at which they are both the victims and perpetrators of crime, then they are actually underrepresented.

    This is simply magnified when it comes to shootings. Of those few individuals who shoot cops, they are more likely to be black. Of those who commit violent crime, they are more likely to be black.

    1. Statistics are racist, you racisty racist!

    2. If we look at the percentage rate of blacks stopped by police and compare it to the rate at which they are both the victims and perpetrators of crime, then they are actually underrepresented.

      Factoring the statistics here should be limited to violent or victim crimes, as otherwise normal and victimless activities have been criminalized with I believe the intent of allowing more police interactions with the public, and perhaps minorities specifically.

      1. I had violent crime initially and deleted it. To be clear I am not condoning harassing black people who are just going about their day. But Reason isn’t actually arguing against the counter to their position here. It’s a strawman.

        The only workable way I see to deal with police violence is, as you said, reduce the ridiculous number of reasons police have to “interact” with the public. I don’t know what workable system you could use to reduce ‘racism’ without establishing moronic quotas or racially proportionate policing. The sort of ‘social justice’ outcome based approach preferred by progressives that bastardizes the very notion of justice.

        1. Such quotas would of course lead to higher crime in black communities, including a higher murder rate. Which would obviously prove that WE NEEDZ MOAR GUN CONTROLZ! Being a ‘progressive’ means never having to say you’re sorry.

      2. Depending on the region that’s being examined, the violent crime rate disparity can be in factors of high single or even low double digits. As in, black people commit (or at least, get arrested for and report being the victims of) violent crimes 8-15 times more often than white people. Of course, where these numbers hold, they generally represent an apples to oranges comparison, because the black population is also considerably more urban than the white population on e.g. a state or large regional level.

        This doesn’t justify getting your car searched every time you’re pulled over, or getting pulled over regularly, or any of the other petty abuses cops can perpetrate “disproportionately” upon black people. But it goes a long way to explaining the disparity there, especially when you consider that people generally expect cops to prevent crimes (and governments generally expect cops to raise money).

    3. B: Actually, there is some interesting data that suggests your assertions may wrong.

  3. For example, “blacks are … 60% more likely to be searched or arrested after being stopped for equipment issues.”

    FWIW, it *seems* blacks are much more likely to stop their own car on the side of the interstate. Perhaps poverty (leading to poor maintenance) or cultural issues sets them up for this sort of interaction with police.

  4. Even conservatives who are generally skeptical of “big government” and rarely reluctant to criticize its representatives tend to make an exception for public employees who wear uniforms and carry guns. That soft spot for armed agents of the state is not just philosophically inconsistent

    This ignores a couple things.

    #1) Police officers are largely seen as “regular” Americans who choose a difficult job. This is reinforced by low wages. Our leaders are out of reach, absent, and make a lot of money while rubbing elbows with the sophisticate and eating fruit sushi.

    #2) They are the most vocal advocates for the 2nd Ammendment that I have come across in daily life. Not only do they support the 2nd Ammendment, but they openly advocate and encourage everyday people to train and arm themselves.

    #3) Many conservatives know police officers. They are our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers. It may be true that there are corrupt officers, but we defend them because they are part of our communities as family and neighbors. Our elites are not.

    It may be “inconsistent” to support our police officers while deriding our elite, but the elite make the laws that officers enforce, the bearucrats set up the training programs and quotas. It is not a stretch to say that those accepted into academy are naturally the ones most likely not to question authority.

    1. This is reinforced by low wages.

      Compared to what? Only the most junior of officers make wages below median, and the more senior officers who get overtime can make multiple times median wage.

      It may be true that there are corrupt officers, but we defend them because they are part of our communities as family and neighbors.

      Defend which, the corrupt or the non-corrupt? If you defend the corrupt officers, then you are saying corruption is an important part of your community.

      Our elites are not.

      And yet they still win elections. Yes, they make the rules. The rules that voters want, or at least allow, them to make.

    2. 1. How are cops poorly compensated for their skillset and backgrounds? I’d argue the opposite is the case – considering what they bring to the table and what they’d be doing otherwise, they are overcompensated for political reasons (unions and general sucking off of police)

      3. So are many other bureaucrats.

      1. I have no problem with cops being “overcompensated” relative to someone else with the same training and skills. Its a good way to avoid the petty corruption of many other country’s police forces. But yes, people don’t seem to realize that cops make time and a half or better AND that overtime goes into your pension calculation.

        1. The idea that paying people more weeds out corruption is specious to me. It’s based on a fallacious notion that corruption is committed not because of lack of consequences but instead because of financial “necessity”. Most people nailed for corruption seem to do it because they wanted to do it and thought they could get away with it. Moreover, few people ever stop being corrupt; “I took it to feed my family/put my kids through college/etc.” doesn’t explain the new car/boat/house or the continued acceptance of payments after the food supply stabilizes or the kids have finished college.

  5. Black lives matter. Cop lives xtra-matter. ALL lives combined into one piddly puddle that resists exploitation by disparate organizations that specialize in mining bureaucracy quarries for power snippets?- meh, not so much…

  6. “#2) They are the most vocal advocates for the 2nd Ammendment that I have come across…”

    That is what they profess in public, but reality is quite different. More often than not, your average cop gets real twitchy and nervous if they know you may be legally carrying. Within their own circles, out of our earshot, I’ll bet they tell each other they’d rather the rest of us not have firearms.

    1. It seems to be a mixed bag. Outside of the cities and large suburbs, the cops seem to be much more pro-2A and much less likely to have itchy trigger fingers. The inner-city and Federal cops especially seem to have no problem enforcing laws against private ownership of the means of self-defense (guns, knives) and generally support, tacitly or otherwise, restrictions on them.

      1. Outside of the cities and large suburbs, the cops seem to be much more pro-2A and much less likely to have itchy trigger fingers.

        This has been my experience. Out in the, um, country even the cops know who the “first responder” is.

  7. …rarely reluctant to criticize [police]…

    Oops! The rare double rarity strikes again!

  8. The black community is disproportionately victimized by law enforcement but at the same time they are disproportionately dependent upon it, both for careers and for room & board & social services in the prison industrial complex, as Ta Nehisi Coates explains. So police need to incite them to violence through their radicalization techniques to stimulate the ecosystem. It’s primarily a generational struggle, and BLM will win. They are no longer willing to lay themselves upon the altar of their parents’ career ambitions.

    1. So police need to incite them to violence through their radicalization techniques to stimulate the ecosystem.

      In your world, everybody’s “incited” and nobody is ever responsible for their own actions. There are something like 4 times as many police officers per capita in NY as in Los Angeles. Why is the crime rate fairly similar, if the police are the ones causing the crime? And why has the crime rate trended downward in both places as the size of the police force has increased?

  9. “Driving while black”

    More like speeding while black
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/s…..5212000554

    1. Using speed to justify police encounters, huh?
      You know who else used speed?

      1. Me? Driving to the BHTM show at Red Rocks this summer.

        I sped all the way along I-70 to get there on time!

  10. That soft spot for armed agents of the state is not just philosophically inconsistent…

    The soft spot is for agents of the state performing the legitimate (if you’re not an anarchist) function of protecting rights. Whatever you may think of how well or how even-handedly police they do their job, the job itself is valid, as contrasted with welfare/regulatory bureaucrats. Also, the soft spot does not generally exist for armed agents not seen as fighting actual crime, such as the BATF, Forestry, Bureau of Land Management, etc. With the obvious exception of the DEA (which many conservatives wrongly see as fighting crime), this distinction holds.

    1. Protecting rights is a legitimate function even if you are an anarchist. The charge against cops is that they’re not doing that job. That the cops violate rights more than they protect them. That they enforce unjust, rights-violating laws, that they act as revenue collectors for the State – without even the usual minimum checks on tax collectors, that they have a special status and receive special treatment when they are accused of committing crimes themselves, and that they take advantage of their special status to commit crimes with impunity, up to and including murder.

      Conservatives routinely bash bureaucrats for failing to do their ostensible jobs and for abusing their power for illegitimate ends – e.g. public school teachers regularly come in for conservative criticism for failing to teach and for indoctrinating their students instead. But when it comes to the police, that sort of conservative criticism is conspicuous by its absence.

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