Pubdate: Sun, 11 July 1999
Source: New York Sunday Times Magazine (NY)
Note: The following comment was placed above the letters on the NY Times
Magazine's web page - "Mail on racial profiling was almost as critical of
America's zealous drug laws as of the practice of police stereotyping."
Mr. Glasser's is one of three letters published on the subject.


In Jeffrey Goldberg's article (June 20), police officers are quoted as
saying that they believe most drug dealers are black or Latino, and that
therefore it is justifiable to stop cars whose drivers are black or Latino.
This conclusion is based on a common statistical fallacy. Even if it is true
that most drug dealers are black or Latino, it does not follow that most
blacks and Latinos are drug dealers. The fact is that hunches based on skin
color instead of on credible evidence mostly turn out to target innocent

On a deeper level, these color-based stops are not made to catch people who
have committed real crimes like rape, assault, robbery or burglary but are
entirely aimed at interdicting drugs, a crime whose only complainant is the
state. After millions of arrests and the escalation of our prison
population, drugs are more available than ever. The use of the criminal law
to deal with the problem of drugs has been ineffective. What's worse, it has
become an engine for the restoration of Jim Crow justice.

IRA GLASSER, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union, New York

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