Do Texas Police Racially Profile Blacks?

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Dallas Morning News Accuses Texas Police of Racial Profiling 

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Race disparity alleged in traffic stops; Texas Police say study is flawed (10/04/00)

          "Black drivers are disproportionately ticketed by state troopers in dozens of counties, in some places drawing twice the citations expected for their population, a statistical study by The Dallas Morning News shows.

          "Working with Dr. Tom Sager, a University of Texas mathematics professor, The News analyzed the approximately 895,000 tickets issued by DPS officers last year.

          "Dr. Sanger constructed a model with a 95 percent accuracy of how many tickets statistically would be expected for blacks and whites based on their population in the county. DPS officers did not denote Hispanic drivers, and therefore Hispanics could not be included in the study.

          "But others who studied the figures, including statistics professors, said no conclusions about racial profiling can be drawn because a key element is missing: the number of minority drivers on any given highway.

          "Dr. John Lamberth of Temple University, a leading expert on racial profiling studies, said research aimed at detecting racial profiling ideally considers the racial makeup of the drivers on the roadway. The state of Texas does not compile such statistics.

          "James Francis, chairman of the Department of Public Safety Board, said he believes the newspaper's study is fundamentally flawed and does not show racial profiling.

          "He said it is unfair to compare ticketed drivers with county residents because highway travelers might be from another place.  "I'm not going to start a massive investigation unless and until there is some indication that something is going on," Mr. Francis said.

          "He said the DPS' analysis of the figures compiled and analyzed by The News, which were also provided to the department, suggests that the high incidence of blacks being ticketed in some counties probably reflects the transient populations moving down interstate highways.

          "He said he is unaware of any complaints of racial profiling. He said he believes minority troopers would break rank and complain to superiors if the problem existed."  (Dallas Morning News 10/04/00, by Christy Hoppe; Rob Giacobbe contributed to this report)
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Letter to Dallas Morning News Editor:

Methodology flawed in racial-profiling study (published 10/14/00)

          "On October 4, 2000 The Dallas Morning News made the following, unsubstantiated statement:  "Black drivers are disproportionately ticketed by state troopers in dozens of counties, in some places drawing twice the citations expected for their population, a statistical study by The Dallas Morning News shows."

          "I have read the article several times, and have reviewed it with university-trained statisticians.  Our collective conclusion is that the folks at the Dallas Morning News need a basic course in statistics, and perhaps should also take a basic course in critical reasoning skills. 

          "The Dallas Morning News unilaterally declared that black drivers in Texas are the subject of racial profiling by Texas police but the News has utterly failed to offer evidence of such a practice.

          "The story in question, "Race disparity found in traffic stops" (Morning News, 10/4/00, by Dallas Morning News' Christy Hoppe) presents as fact the seriously flawed and unsupported conclusion that black drivers residing in any given Texas county receive proportionately more traffic citations than their numbers in the given county would suggest.

          "In your Oct.4 story, you reported that you analyzed 895,000 traffic tickets issued by Texas police during 1999.  In your analysis of the tickets, your paper conveyed the impression that the proportion of blacks who received tickets in a given Texas county was significantly higher than the proportion of blacks who resided in that county.  This can only be statistically meaningful if all black recipients of traffic tickets in your study were, in fact, residents of the county in which they were cited.  But the study conducted by the Dallas Morning News' failed to analyze the county-of-residence of blacks who received traffic tickets.

          "Any Texas trooper will tell you -- in fact, any trooper from any state will tell you -- that a large percentage of drivers on state roads and interstates in any given county are NOT residents of the county in which they are ticketed.  Many traffic stops on state roads and interstates involve non-county residents -- otherwise known as "pass through" traffic -- whose trips either originate in an out-of-county location, or terminate in an out-of-county location, or both.

          "This is an extremely significant omission in the Dallas Morning News so-called "statistical study" of racial profiling. 

          "In spite of this glaring flaw in your "statistical analysis", the Dallas Morning News presents as fact the unsupportable conclusion that the proportion of tickets written to black drivers in a given Texas county should mysteriously be equal to the proportion of black citizens in that county -- even though many of those ticketed drivers are not county residents.

          "This type of sloppy, incomplete, and alarmist statistical analysis not only misinforms your readers, but it does great harm to sincere efforts to achieve fair and equal treatment for all citizens without regard to race, gender or national origin."  (Tim Fay letter to the Dallas Morning News, published 10/14/00)
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END Do Texas Police Racially Profile Blacks?

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