Nobody likes to be called a dummy by a dummy.

Profiling (Toronto)

A bitter debate has been simmering in Toronto for some time. First there were accusations that police were unfairly targeting the black community*. Now, in the midst of a terrible rash of gun crimes (where blacks are overwhelmingly the perpetrators, and far more importantly the victims, of the violence) a black councillor is asking for help, by way of the police, specifically targetting black youths.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20050817/GUNS17/TPNational/Toronto

He's talking specifically about high-crime areas, like Jane and Finch.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=jane+and+finch,+toronto&ll=43.757519,-79.517680&spn=0.005543,0.010131&t=h&hl=en

Humorously when my older brother was going to college in Toronto some years back, I stayed on the 23rd floor or whatever of that 3-pronged building to the upper right during the summer. Even though the neighbourhood was notorious even then, it seemed fine to me.

* - The Toronto Star, ever the bleeding heart ultra-liberal rag, did a big expose that more "stops without significant reason" were occurring against blacks than other groups. Of course the National Post did an excellent counter-analysis, where they also found that those stops overwhelmingly led to criminal charges - which could either mean that the police fabricated charges, or that their selectivity was actually right on the money.
Permalink Dennis Forbes 
August 17th, 2005
"Of course the National Post did an excellent counter-analysis, where they also found that those stops overwhelmingly led to criminal charges - which could either mean that the police fabricated charges, or that their selectivity was actually right on the money."

Bzzt.

Population of 1000 - 800 white, 200 black. 10% of all citizens commit crimes. Police stop 20 blacks, they're all convicted.

I'm not trying to say that they shouldn't have been arrested or there's something "unfair" - just that your quote has no bearing on the charge of racial profiling.

Philo
Permalink Philo 
August 17th, 2005
Yeah, my quote absolutely has bearings on the claims of racial profiling. If the police are accused of unfairly targeting a select group, one would expect the actual charges-laid ratio to be _LOWER_ among that group, most certainly not higher. I really don't think this is too complex.
Permalink Dennis Forbes 
August 17th, 2005
<<black councillor is asking for help, by way of the police, specifically targetting black youths.>>

he sure sounds awefully white to me...
Permalink Kenny 
August 17th, 2005
I guess he doesn't appreciate the fact that his community is devastated by a couple of murderous thugs, and maybe he'd like to raise a family without bullets whizzing overhead. He sounds human to me.

There was a rap group/clothing company recently putting out some shirts recently saying "STOP THE SNITCHING!" (some sort of anti-police thing). How bloody ignorant. Yeah, it's complex and all, but basically it's an entire community catering to the best-interest (and their own WORST-interest) of some thugs and criminals. Already policing in many of the areas is close to impossible because most of the citizens won't cooperate with police.
Permalink Dennis Forbes 
August 17th, 2005
"Already policing in many of the areas is close to impossible because most of the citizens won't cooperate with police."

In the spirit of me always having the right answer to any infinitely complicated situation, I would hand these people the correct percentage of their tax dollars back, and remove all police, ambulance and firefighting forces from the area. Let them deal with their own shit, if they're so clever.

Anybody remember this dystopian mildly-scifi novel called Coventry? Don't recall the author right now.
Permalink Flasher T 
August 17th, 2005
When I was a student a decade+ back, I lived in an apartment building that was students and lower income. I remember once bbq'ing on the patio when some firefights arrived to put out a bush fire (it was near a ravine where kids played). While they were putting it out, some guys a couple of floors up started yelling insults at them, and began tossing beer bottles down at them. How F'n screwed up does one have to be to start to imagine that fire fighters are the enemy?
Permalink Dennis Forbes 
August 17th, 2005
Let's try this again, Dennis-

1000 people, 800 white, 200 black

80 white people steal something, 20 black people steal something.

Police arrest 20 people, all black - all are convicted.

So does the fact that 100% of the 20 blacks arrested mean that racial profiling is proper?

This is pure lawnmower handle analysis - you almost can't have this argument because nobody knows how many people that weren't arrested were committing crimes.

Also note the language - "led to criminal charges." I don't know how it is up north, but in the US, thanks to our laws, you can really arrest just about anyone at any time and file criminal charges; there are so many laws that we're all breaking one all the time.

You could go to just about any rave, arrest 30 people at random, and "file charges" on them for something (ecstasy, underage drinking, etc). So if you went to a rave, arrested 20 black people, and managed to charge almost all of them, does that mean a higher proportion of blacks commit crimes?

The best (and only, to my knowledge) study of this was done in NJ (since they're regularly battered by racial profiling charges). They set up speed cameras on the turnpike and just let them run. Then they tallied drivers vs. speed and found out that yes, on average, a higher percentage of blacks were speeding. Therefore, if you blindly ticket speeders, you're going to ticket a higher percentage of blacks.

Note that I am NOT challenging the argument that "more blacks commit crimes" - I'm arguing that your statement doesn't support it; it's a very complex analysis. :)

Philo
Permalink Philo 
August 17th, 2005
The one issue with profiling is that tends to be a vicious circle sort of thing. Police target black communities, make more stops, hassle more people and generally create a perception of being tough against a certain segment of the population. That segment then in turn starts resenting the police since they are hassling them all the time for no apparent reason and become generally uncooperative. Police find their job tougher to do and have to step things up to get results, circle continues.

While I am in favor of an increased police presence in communities where there is increased crime rates (be it a white, black, latino or mixed community), I do not believe that profiling, in a policing context, is a useful tool.
Permalink Gerald 
August 17th, 2005
I find it helpful to ask myself how we feel about when countries used profiling against Jews. What would we think if many Jews were hassled by the police and locked up?

Or how about putting more hawklike policemen in wealthy white neighborhoods to catch cocaine offenders? Wouldn't people find that a bit audacious, even when it would be very effective?
http://www.drugwarfacts.org/crack.htm

A bit offtopic, the Pope recently chose the city I'm in for his big visit, and reportedly a bunch of Christians tore down signs promoting birth control. How would Europeans react if Muslims did this? Or Jews for that matter?

Now, I can't comment on Toronto, as I don't know their problems. But I find it very helpful to perform these mental substitutions.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 17th, 2005
The problem with profiling is the underlying racist assumption that people really are groups rather than individuals.

If irrelevancies are ignored, such as appearance and the police concentrated on actual behaviour instead then we might have more accurate and efficient policing. We might also stop people from treating the police as a group as well.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 17th, 2005
What behaviours?

What if it turns out that clothing popular among urban blacks is correlated to high incidence of crime? Shop at a certain convenience store? Is wearing that clothing a behaviour? It's certainly not biological.

I'm not disagreeing with your point, but I think any kind of predictive police work at all is going to have to group people. If all police work were reactionary, then this kind of grouping could be avoided. But society demands some kind of preventative policing. So try not to look like a criminal.
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 17th, 2005
"So try not to look like a criminal."

This is a difficult and complex topic, but I think one of the reasons* for the number of incidents of "black" violence and crime has to do with a celebration of the "black gangster" image - Act the part, and soon enough the part will act on you.
Permalink Dennis Forbes 
August 17th, 2005
I'm not gonna argue that. :)

Philo
Permalink Philo 
August 17th, 2005
I think real solutions lie in policy, not policing. ;)

There exists a role for police. But if I looked at those old impoverished Jewish ghettos in Europe, only a hard-hearted person would say, "Man, they just needed more effective police and prisons." There's pretty deep economic problems at issue.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 17th, 2005
Aren't you taking the Jewish analogy a bit far? :-)

I am thoroughly misinformed, or uninformed, but it was my take that the term "ghetto" didn't originally mean "decrepit wasteland", but rather was a reference to a ethnic enclave (sometimes a FORCED ethnic enclave). My impression was that the Jewish Ghettos were generally very affluent areas.
Permalink Dennis Forbes 
August 17th, 2005
When I say policing, I'm not just talking about the guys in patrol cars. I'm talking about the efforts by the state to enforce justice in society. Specifically the branches of that responsible for do the watching and the catching, not so much the trying. (Trials and judgements should always remain reactionary, based on some explicit event with evidence.)
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 17th, 2005
I was curious about that too. When I looked around, it appeared that a number of them were indeed impoverished, so I took care to specifically use that word. ;)

On Jewish ghettoes:

"The character of ghettos has varied through times. In some cases, the ghetto was a Jewish quarter with a relatively affluent population (for instance the Jewish ghetto in Venice). In other cases, ghettos have connoted impoverishment."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghetto#Jewish_ghettos_in_Europe
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 17th, 2005
There's one thing that bothers me about racial profiling, and it's not (just) the racist bit.

It's the seemingly minor detail that I don't like the idea of living in a country where I have to prove my innocence of all crimes I could possibly have committed any time a government agent demands it. The soviet union tried that trick, and it probably wasn't one of the things that appealed the most about their particular government.

Sure, it "makes people safer" because it ensures that the police can stop criminals, but I'm bothered by people demanding that I give up my freedom in exchange for their safety when I haven't actually done anything to them.

It's just one more step along the road to the type of place I really don't want to live in.
Permalink  
August 18th, 2005
This is a letter from yesterday's "The Age" regarding current overreactionary legislation in Australia:

>>Imagine this - and fear what fear is doing to us
Date: August 18 2005

Imagine this: Maria is a journalist. She also volunteers at an English language centre where she teaches 11-year-old Adina. She has come to know that Adina's parents have a fruit stall near Maria's home.

One night at 2am, Maria's house is raided and she is taken by heavily armed guards to a prison cell and questioned. The guards say that if Maria fails to provide them with information about Adina's family, she will be detained longer. She asks what information. They will not tell her what information they believe she has, but if she cannot prove that she does not have the information (which she does not know about), she will face serious criminal charges and possible imprisonment.

Maria is held effectively "incommunicado" and has no right to tell her family, friends or employer where she is. She asks to see a friend, who is a lawyer. He visits her briefly, but he too faces serious penalties if he tells anyone about her situation while she is under interrogation. Later, Maria is told her lawyer cannot see her again as he has not got security clearance from the Government.

Maria is deeply distressed and confused, and experiences anxiety attacks arising from some of the interrogation techniques used. On her release, she cannot talk to a health professional about her treatment, nor can she make a complaint to her local MP or to the Attorney-General, as this too would be a criminal offence.

No - Maria does not live in Argentina, Iran or Iraq. She lives in Melbourne and her treatment is now allowed under Australia's new anti-terrorist legislation passed by both Liberal and Labor. These laws go beyond laws in other Western nations and take away long-held and fought-for civil and political rights from citizens, in favour of interrogators and security forces.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock's claims - made in New York last month (The Age, 27/7) - are wrong. The UN Human Rights Convention does not grant him permission to pass laws that take away human rights of citizens to "keep them safe".

The convention makes it abundantly clear, coming as it did after the Holocaust and wrongful abuse of human rights in World War II, that humankind is most at risk when governments discard human rights in the rhetoric of fighting a greater evil. This was the pretext used by Hitler after the burning of the Reichstag in Berlin. On that pretext, the president of Germany allowed passage of laws that led to the horrors of that regime.

If we give away the civil rights that protect us and keep our governments accountable in times of fear and panic, such as in the aftermath of the London bombs, then we risk not learning the valuable lessons of history. We allow our Government to undermine what makes our democracy different to tyranny. By doing so, we allow the terrorists to win.

Liz Curran, lecturer in law, La Trobe University and member of the committee of Liberty Victoria <<


I support Ms Curran's views.
Permalink trollop 
August 18th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

Other topics: August, 2005 Other topics: August, 2005 Recent topics Recent topics