Traf­fic stops don’t show po­lice bias

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - John Rig­i­lano, Bal­ti­more

With the elec­tion of the abom­inable Don­ald Trump, in­stances of ac­tual racism will not be dif­fi­cult to find. The Bal­ti­more Sun need not try so hard (“Driv­ing while black,” Nov. 20). It re­cently re­ported, for ex­am­ple, that in Bal­ti­more County, “black driv­ers were tar­geted in 50 per­cent of re­ported traf­fic stops by county po­lice and 53 per­cent of ve­hi­cle searches be­tween 2013 and this year … de­spite black peo­ple mak­ing up just 27 per­cent of the county’s pop­u­la­tion.” Jux­ta­pos­ing sum­mary statis­tics — for ex­am­ple the per­cent of searches against per­cent of pop­u­la­tion — is mis­lead­ing and in­flam­ma­tory. There is no rea­son to as­sume, a pri­ori, that law­break­ing (traf­fic law or oth­er­wise) is evenly distributed across all seg­ments (race, sex, age, in­come, etc.) of the pop­u­la­tion.

To the con­trary, The Sun’s own data­base shows a con­tra­band “hit rate” in Bal­ti­more County of 28 per­cent for whites and 27 per­cent for blacks dur­ing the three year pe­riod in ques­tion. It looks as though the Bal­ti­more County Po­lice Department’s ve­hi­cle search pro­to­col is al­most per­fectly cal­i­brated to pro­duce un­bi­ased out­comes. It should serve as a model for other ju­ris­dic­tions. Need­less to say, this did not come through in The Sun’s re­port­ing.

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