Accuracy in Media

Several years ago the police department in Montgomery County, MD was accused by the local NAACP chapter of racial profiling in traffic stops.  The NAACP accused the police of targeting black drivers more than white or other drivers by saying the percentage of blacks stopped for violations was greater than the overall percentage of blacks living in the county.  The department argued that this was not a valid measurement as many stops occurred at night and thus the officers had no way of telling what color the driver was. Plus with all the tinted windows on cars it isn’t easy to tell ones skin color during the day, especially from the rear.  That didn’t matter to the NAACP and the department eventually agreed to track stops more carefully and report the results to the U.S. Justice Department.

Well, the latest results are in and they are very interesting.  The police compared the drivers cited by red light cameras and compared them to actual stops made by officers.  It turns out that the percentage of blacks was about equal in both cases.  So are the cameras profiling now? 

The NAACP owes the police department an apology, but I doubt it will come in my lifetime.




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