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'Driving while black or brown' keeps on keeping on

For all the Freeper bigots out there that think minorities are getting a free ride, are “sticking it to whitey” or any of the other BS that implies reverse discrimination against the dominant population, I invite you to switch places for a while, and experience the following kind of day-to-day sh*t people of color still experience first-hand.

I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing DWB (driving while black), but I have encountered SWB (shopping while black — being followed in a store to make sure I didn’t shoplift) and HTWB (hailing a taxi while black — being bypassed).

I love the little detail in this story that the Bush admin didn’t want this information publicized, and the person that wanted to do so ended up demoted. John Conyers is calling for an investigation.

Race Disparity Seen During Traffic Stops

Black, Hispanic and white motorists are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched, handcuffed, arrested and subjected to force or the threat of it, a Justice Department study has found.

The study, by the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, was completed last April and posted on the agency’s Web site after Bush administration officials disagreed over whether a press release should mention the racial disparities. Traffic stops have become a politically volatile issue as minority groups have complained that many stops and searches are based on race rather than on legitimate suspicions.

The bureau’s director, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, appointed by President Bush in 2001, wanted to publicize the racial disparities, but his superiors disagreed, a BJS employee said Wednesday. No release was issued. Greenfeld has told his staff that he is being moved to a new job following the dispute, according to this employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to reporters. Greenfeld was not immediately available for comment. Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse would not comment on Greenfeld’s status.

When someone in law enforcement who is willing to speak the truth about racial profiling gets demoted for it, that’s absolutely chilling,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau. “To manage any problem, we must first measure it.”

I’m pretty sure the phenomenon of DWB is more often than not black men that are getting stopped and mistreated, especially if they are driving a car in the “wrong place” or the car is perceived as “too expensive” by law enforcement for the darkie behind the wheel to be driving. [That would rule me out anyway, between my late-great, low-end ’88 Mercury Tracer hatch or my current Focus wagon, those aren’t exactly models one would steal.]

Meanwhile, here are some details on the findings.

* Blacks (5.8 percent) and Hispanics (5.2 percent) were much more likely to be arrested than whites (2 percent).

* Hispanics (71.5 percent) were much more likely to be ticketed than blacks (58.4 percent) or whites (56.5 percent).

* Blacks (2.7 percent) and Hispanics (2.4 percent) were far more likely than whites (0.8 percent) to report that police used force or the threat of it. Force was defined as when an officer pushed, grabbed, kicked or hit a driver with a hand or object. Also included were police dog bites, chemical or pepper spray or a firearm pointed at the driver, or the threat of any of these.

* Handcuffs were used on greater percentages of black motorists (6.4 percent) and Hispanics (5.6 percent) than whites (2 percent).

* Black and Hispanic drivers and their vehicles were much more likely to be searched than whites and their vehicles. Black motorists were searched 8.1 percent of the time; Hispanics, 8.3 percent; whites, 2.5 percent. Vehicles driven by blacks were searched 7.1 percent of the time; by Hispanics, 10.1 percent; by whites, 2.9 percent.

The Washington Post reports today that John Conyers has called an investigation into Lawrence Greenfeld’s demotion over the release of the information.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said he was preparing a request for an “independent review” by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, which will be asked to examine the personnel issues and the formulation of the study itself.

“It is totally unacceptable for the Justice Department to politicize statistical releases and demote individuals merely because they were seeking to provide accurate summaries of statistical information regarding racial profiling,” Conyers said.

Conyers’s demand came after a report in the New York Times focusing on Lawrence A. Greenfeld, who heads the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a small office staffed primarily with statisticians who conduct studies and issue reports on law enforcement issues. Quoting unidentified officials and documents, the report said Greenfeld was ordered to delete references to racial disparities in a news release prepared to announce a study on the treatment of different ethnic groups during police traffic stops.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding