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Jewish World Review March 31, 2002 / 18 Nisan, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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Consumer Reports

Speeding to conclusions | Whatever was the Justice Department thinking? Having successfully compelled New Jersey to set new guidelines intended to eliminate "racial profiling" by state troopers along the Garden State's highways, why did it order up a study of the speeding habits of New Jersey motorists? Such carelessness. After all, science can be so unpredictable.

Guess it never occurred to anyone at Justice that a comprehensive analysis of the facts might actually provide some evidence that New Jersey troopers are not quite the Simon Legrees in squad cars their critics say they are.

But that's what the new study shows. Or is said to show, anyhow. It's hard to know for sure because the Justice Department, having discovered this big political boo-boo in the ream of scientific data it asked for, has decided to bury the report by barring its release. This, of course, has only intensified media interest in the story.

Why? It all goes back to the fact that before we had Osama bin Laden, we had New Jersey state troopers, widely reviled as unreconstructed racists for stopping black motorists at a much higher rate than other motorists, particularly along the New Jersey Turnpike. Troopers do stop black motorists at a much higher rate than white motorists. This happens for variety of explanations, which are either denounced as racial profiling or upheld as common-sense police work. What this new study tells us is that one reason troopers are stopping more black than white motorists is that black motorists exceed the speed limit at a much higher rate than white motorists. "In the southern segment of the turnpike, where the speed limit is 65 mph, 2.7 percent of black drivers were speeders, compared with 1.4 percent of white drivers," reported The New York Times, which broke the story last week. "Among drivers going faster than 90 mph, the disparity was ever greater."

This was not what the government was expecting. "Those results startled officials in the state attorney general's office, who had assumed that the radar study would bolster their case that profiling was widespread," the newspaper wrote. "Instead, the study concluded that blacks make up 16 percent of the drivers on the turnpike and 25 percent of the speeders in the 65 mph zones, where complaints of profiling have been most common."

Given that recent records show that black drivers make up 23 percent of the traffic stops on the turnpike, it sounds as if the troopers just might be stopping black drivers because of their driving, not because of their race.

Bad news for the sensitivity-training industry. New Jersey was all set to release the results of this $500,000 study conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in January when Mark Posner, a lawyer with the Justice Department, told the state to hit the brakes. Informed by his no doubt extensive legal expertise, Mr. Posner determined that the scientific methodology of the study was all wrong. Glare coming off windshields, he suggested, very likely skewed the analysis of the 38,747 photos of drivers that researchers compiled for analysis. Weather or camera placement, he was sure, probably ruined the determinations of the three-member panel charged with identifying drivers by race from the photographs (without any speeding information). "Based on the questions we have identified," he wrote, "it may well be that the results reported in the draft report are wrong or unreliable."

The only way to find out for sure whether environmental factors skewed the research is to release their report, not just for the benefit of the taxpayers who paid for it, but for the vetting process of scientific peer review. What's the Justice Department afraid of? A few tough facts seem to have collided with a fragile, pet political theory, and its supporters are doing everything wrong to save it.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West