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The Myth of Driving While Black By: Michael P. Tremoglie
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 05, 2004


The most recent study of Driving While Black (DWB) reveals the phenomenon is largely a myth. It has been "proven" to be a routine practice by law enforcement personnel (LEP). The accounts in the mainstream media indicate there is a "tremendous" amount of evidence of this practice, but it just isn't so.

A February 2003 study published in Criminology, a journal of the American Society of Criminology tells the tale. Richard J. Lundman, an Ohio State University Sociology professor, and Robert L. Kaufman, the Chair of Ohio State’s Sociology Department, conducted the study entitled Driving While Black: Effects of Race, Ethnicity, And Gender on Citizen Self-Reports of Traffic Stops and Police Actions.

The purpose of this study was to answer the questions: Are African–American men more likely to be stopped by cops for traffic violations? Are African–American men and Hispanics drivers less likely to report that law enforcement officers (LEOs) stopped them for legitimate reasons? Are they less likely to report that cops acted appropriately?

The study used citizen self-reported data. The conclusions were consistent with other recent studies and books that question the existence of DWB and racial profiling. Unfortunately, these conclusions were not reported by the liberal mainstream media, which prefer to propagate the concept that racist cops are an undisputed fact of life, especially in the "inner city."

What were the conclusions of this study and how does it contribute to debunking the DWB canard and its corollary of racial profiling?

Professors Lundman and Kaufman concluded:

"First, citizens report that police nationally make traffic stops more frequently of African-American male drivers…[but] there is an identical pattern of stops by race/ethnicity. Second, African-American drivers (both men and women), as well as Hispanic male drivers, are significantly less likely than white men to report that police had a legitimate reason for making the traffic stop, thereby suggesting either police recourse to pretext when stopping drivers of color or varying situational definitions between whites and citizens of color, or both. Third, African-American men and Hispanic men are significantly less likely than white men to report that police acted properly during the traffic stop encounter (as are African-American women compared to white women) ….Most importantly, there is a…need…for additional research on Driving While Black using triangulated police-reported, citizen-reported, and observer-reported data." (Emphasis added.)

This is the crux of the matter: Despite the fact that the available data do not bear out the theory of a racist police force and only inadequate data are available, the mainstream media and academicians report Driving While Black as fact.

Lundman was quoted as saying, "An overwhelming majority of people of all races thought there was a good reason for the police to stop them and also had no issues with how they were treated … still, there was a significant difference between black and white drivers concerning their views about the encounter… It may be that police in many instances are acting like saints."

It seems DWB is more perception than reality. However, this is not the impression the Washington Post furnished in a November 1996 article titled “Driving While Black on 95.” Nor is it the impression conveyed by the San Diego Tribune’s December 1997 article, “Driving While Black Examined in San Diego.” Nor of any number of other articles published through the years that demonize police and heap fuel on the racial hucksters' cries of racism.

Certainly it is not the impression the ACLU furnishes. According to the ACLU:

“A national report on ‘driving while black’ written for the American Civil Liberties Union by a University of Toledo law professor who did the first statewide research into racial profiling in Ohio, finds patterns of racial bias in traffic stops all over the country and recommends steps to address the problem comprehensively.”

 

The professor referred to is David Harris, the putative leading authority about racial profiling in the nation.

 

Ironically, Harris wrote a book about racial profiling in which he said, "whatever (police officers') motivation …pretextual stops will be used against African-Americans and Hispanics …out of proportion to their numbers in the driving population…It may seem bold that I make this assertion as a fact. In fact, I lack the kind of systematically gathered and analyzed data anyone making such a statement would prefer to have. This is because virtually no one … has ever kept comprehensive statistics on who police stop … there may be race-neutral explanations for the statistical pattern (racial disparity in traffic stops)…. At the very least, further study is needed.”

However, in both cases, Driving While Black or racial profiling, those who claim it exists do so without any proof. Unfortunately, the mere allegation is all that is required to promulgate the concept that cops are racists. In addition to slurring the brave men and women who keep our streets safe, this pretext also lends legitimacy to claims of "racism" made in court cases by truly dangerous criminals. And that makes all of us less safe.


A former police officer, Michael P. Tremoglie recently published his first novel, A Sense of Duty. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Human Events, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has a Master of Science degree from Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia.


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