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Government mis-uses data, situation normal

A picture named data.gifToday’s New York Times article: Profiling Report Leads to a Demotion is interesting in that it describes a process that has become amazingly typical in government use of data (particularly as it relates to the drug war).
Amid all the reports of racial profiling in highway stops, the Justice Department did a study – more comprehensive than past ones. The results were important and should be discussed nationally.
But the administration decided that the press release should only contain one part of the results — the data regarding rates that drivers of different races were stopped (8.6% for Hispanics, 9.1% for blacks, 8.7% for whites). That made it seem like there’s not much of an issue.
What was left out? Percentages of drivers whose vehicles were searched, and percentages of drivers who had force used against them. Those figures gave dramatically different results.
Lawrence Greenfield, the director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 23 years and very highly respected in the field, objected to the partial truth press release.
He’s being demoted. Naturally.
Update: Here are some more of the data from the report (via the AP):

–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.

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