Thursday was a busy day, beginning with a 6:45 AM radio show, where I talked about racial profiling, and ended with the same topic at a 6:00 PM meeting of the Lincoln branch of the NAACP. In between, I attended and testified at a meeting of the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice's Racial Profiling Advisory Committee.
I had been looking forward to the opportunity to discuss these issues. I think I provided the Crime Commission's committee with some good food for thought, and I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to speak with the NAACP. We don't talk enough about race in our culture, particulary with people of different races than our own, and it's refreshing to do so in an open, honest manner.
Racial profiling has been a hot issue lately, in part due to the release of a report by the Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, a coalition of civil rights organizations delivered a letter to the Crime Commission urging an investigation of four Nebraska law enforcement agencies: the Lincoln, Omaha, Lexington Police Departments, and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
I have never shied away from race or racial profiling, and it has been the subject of some of my past blog posts over the years. There is racial disparity in traffic stops by the Lincoln Police Department. This has been the case since the State started collecting these data in 2002. The call for investigation characterizes this disparity as an "alarmingly high" rate of racial profiling.
While the data on racial disparity in traffic stops is clear, we have very little understanding of its meaning. No one is more interested in a deeper understanding than me, but to make the leap from racial disparity to racial profiling is jumping to a conclusion that is quite premature. My second problem with the ACLU report is their explanation of why Lincoln is in their crosshairs: "...the black population of the area is 3.5%, yet black drivers were 9.6% of the stops."
I'll be explaining my problems with these two assertions in a series of posts on my blog this week, and providing some more thoughts about the issue of racial disparity and racial profiling.
Links to the series: