August 2005 Archives

A federal researcher with a reputation for integrity named Larry Greenfeld had to leave the Bureau of Justice Statistics because he refused to go along with changes in the wording of a press release that described evidence of potential racial profiling by police. BJS officials eventually decided not to have a press release at all and to just post the research at the BJS web site.

A New York Times article, written by Eric Eric Lichblau, draws attention to this case. The actual nationwide study, as noted by Lichblau and found in the report itself, indicates that 1) "The likelihood of being stopped by police in 2002 did not differ significantly between white (8.7%), black (9.1%), and Hispanic (8.6%) drivers"; and 2) "During the traffic stop, police were more likely to carry out some type of search on a black (10.2%) or Hispanic (11.4%) than a white (3.5%)." The study also found blacks were less likely to feel that the police had a legitimate reason for stopping them than whites, among other differences by race/ethnicity.

It may be helpful to look at this is as an example of the exercise of power by political elites to keep controversial criminal justice issues out of the public agenda--in this case the use of racial profiling in traffic stops, a significant political issue in criminal justice. Because Greenfeld was in an exempt position he served at the pleasure of the Bush administration. His mistake was his inability to let supervisors hide the true story of a significant and authoritative federal study of law enforcement.

This study merits a close read because it gets to a variety of practices and attiitudes that are extremely important to many citizens and police.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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