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Here A Profile, There A Profile By: Michael Tremoglie
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, May 13, 2002


PROFILING is part and parcel of police work. However distasteful that may seem to some, it is a reality.

A group of swarthy looking men, taking a transatlantic flight, with no luggage could reasonably be suspected of being terrorists. A carload of white teenagers, in a black neighborhood, early in the morning, could reasonably be suspected of trafficking in controlled substances. A group of seductively dressed women standing on a street corner, late at night, might be suspected of prostitution.

Each of these scenarios could have perfectly innocent explanations as well. Yet, they do raise suspicions.

A Philadelphia radio talk show host once stated unequivocally that " black adults in Buicks, with kids in the car, are stopped for no reason " by the New Jersey Sate Police. She did not cite her source.

I believe it is unconscionable to suggest that police officers initiate traffic investigations because of racism. The fact that this charge is repeated in the media without any basis in fact is reprehensible. Yet, this same media derided a study by a university professor in North Carolina who attempted to determine if blacks violated traffic laws in disproportion to their percentage in the population.

The basis for the claim that the New Jersey State Police were racially profiling motorists was that police investigate a higher percentage of African and Hispanic Americans than is their percentage in the general population. If that were so, why would it be inconceivable to validate the racial profiling theory by eliminating an alternative causality? Researchers do this all the time. Validity and eliminating alternative causation are necessary components of establishing hypothesis.

The a priori logic of the racial profiling inquisition would lead one to conclude that there is racial profiling by NFL coaches. The percentage of black NFL players is higher than their percentage in the general population. Shannon Sharpe, of the Denver Broncos, was quoted as saying that if his white teammate, Ed McCaffrey, were black he would be making more money than he does now. If one were to use the logic of the racial profiling inquisitors, there should be an investigation of NFL hiring and compensation practices.

I do not recall civil rights activists demanding an investigation of NFL policies. Perhaps Geraldo Rivera should do one of his exposes about this.

As a former Philadelphia police officer, I recall being taught in the Academy and by the veterans that you cannot make a "car stop" without reason. Preferably, there should be a violation of some sort. If not, there must be a reasonable suspicion. Whatever the case, there must be a reason-ethnicity, race, or religion in and of itself will not do it. Arbitrarily investigating vehicles is tantamount to arbitrarily searching houses. It just ain’t so. This is not Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua.

I worked with officers, black and white, in neighborhoods black and white, where cars were stopped for trivial violations as a pretext for an investigation. However, there was a legitimate violation. Conversely, police have stopped me for trivial violations or for suspicious circumstances.

The claim of racism is a canard. It is just fodder for the defense attorneys no different than the "Twinkie " defense. It is fuel for the racial ambulance chasers and the lawsuit lottery. Racial profiling, if anything, is a cash cow for civil rights organizations and attorneys. Defense attorneys are legal advocates. They are not concerned about innocence or guilt. They are concerned with conviction or acquittal-and being paid. Recall the famous trial lawyers convention where lawyers spoke of acquitting guilty clients and shared methods of utilization.

The hyperbole of the allegations against the New Jersey State Police resulted in criminal charges, firings, and a payment by the state. Racial ambulance chasers used the New Jersey case as a reason to file lawsuits. Defense attorneys cited New Jersey to have their clients acquitted. Soon departments in cities across the nation (and even in London) were required to collect racial data. Ironically, recall that it was this past March that a subsequent study by the Justice Department determined that the racial disparity was justified as blacks violated speeding traffic laws more frequently.

Profiling is a useful tool of law enforcement. Eliminating a legitimate tactic simply because of a perception of racism or for the exploitation of special interest groups will ultimately damage the community.

Similarly, conducting an auto-da-fe to placate certain political constituencies will also have a deleterious effect on law enforcement.


Michael P. Tremoglie is the author of the new novel A Sense of Duty, and an ex-Philadelphia cop. E-mail him at elfegobaca@comcast.net.


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