Better Dead than Profiled?

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

The stop-and-frisk tactic that’s been employed for over a decade by New York City’s cops has produced two clear and unarguable results. First, more blacks and Hispanics have been stopped. Second, fewer blacks and Hispanics have been murdered.

On August 12, federal judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that New York City’s use of stop-and-frisk violates Constitutional rights by conducting unreasonable searches and violating the guarantee of equal protection under the law.
"The evidence at trial revealed that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has an unwritten policy of targeting ‘the right people’ for stops," the judge said. "In practice, the policy encourages the targeting of young black and Hispanic men based on their prevalence in local crime complaints. This is a form of racial profiling."

In short, the number of stops and frisks per group in New York are directly correlated to the level of criminal behavior per group. Applying that tactic to airport security would mean that citizens from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would be subjected to more intensive screening than passengers from Sweden or Iceland.

Unless common sense has been undermined by overdoses of political correctness, that type of profiling linked to group crime rates or regions that are hotbeds of political and religious extremism would seem to be a logical way to combat crime and terrorism.

That’s not, however, how Judge Scheindlin saw it. "The city and its highest officials believe that blacks and Hispanics should be stopped at the same rate as their proportion of the local criminal suspect population," she said. "But this reasoning is flawed because the stopped population is overwhelmingly innocent — not criminal."

Applied to the airport security, that would mean that passengers from Saudi Arabia couldn’t to be singled out for special scrutiny because most of the Saudis in the airports are "overwhelmingly innocent."

Reacting to Scheindlin’s decision, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his administration would appeal the ruling, explaining that stop-and-search has been a "vital deterrent" to crime by taking 8,000 guns off New York City’s street over the past decade, making New York "the safest big city in America" with "countless lives" saved.

"If murder rates over the last 11 years had been the same as the previous 11 years, more than 7,300 people who today are alive would be dead," said Bloomberg – and most of them, he asserted, would be young black and Hispanic males.

In fact, 87 percent of all murder victims in New York City last year were black and Hispanic, killed almost exclusively by other blacks and Hispanics.

In 1990, 2,245 people were murdered in New York City. Last year, 414 people were murdered in the city. This year, with the number of murders still declining, the city’s homicide totals for the first six months of 2013 were down 25 percent from the first six months of 2012.

Still, the editorial board of the Washington Post, praising Scheindlin as "both reasonable and practical," focused on the alleged unfairness of New York’s stop-and-frisk policy: "While the policy accompanied a steep decline in the homicide rate in recent years, the unfortunate reality is that the city’s use of stop and frisk has come to represent the largest racial profiling operation in the United States, with African-Americans and Hispanics accounting for more than 80 percent of the 4.4 million stops conducted over eight years."

Defending the fact that eight in ten of the people stopped under its stop-and-frisk program in 2011 and 2012 were black or Hispanic, the city pointed out that "approximately 90 percent of all violent crime suspects were black or Hispanic."

So, what exactly is the Washington Post’s editorial board saying? Better dead than profiled?

"Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered," writes black columnist Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University. "Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011 there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks."

Nationally, continues Williams, the "black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites.

Altogether, black fatalities during the wars in Korea, Vietnam and all wars since 1980 totaled 18,515, "a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life a home," writes Williams. "It’s a tragic commentary to be able to say that young black males have a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities."

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Ralph R. Reiland
Phone: 412-779-7583
Email: [email protected].