HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Ongoing Denials Prompt
Pubdate: Tue, 13 Mar 2001
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2001 The Dallas Morning News
Contact:  P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, Texas   75265
Fax: (972) 263-0456
Author:  Editorial Board


There is something wrong at the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Last fall, a Dallas Morning News audit of nearly 900,000 highway citations 
revealed that in 26 rural Texas counties the percentage of African-American 
drivers ticketed was twice their proportion of the driving-age population 
in those counties.

Now, a new survey by The Morning News of 491,000 tickets and 441,000 
warning citations issued by troopers about the same time finds that blacks 
and Hispanics were twice as likely as whites to have their vehicles 
searched. While troopers searched one in 50 white motorists, they searched 
one in 22 black drivers and one in 20 Hispanics.

An economics professor and statistician from the University of Texas 
checked our work. searching for factors other than race to explain the 
disparity. He found none.

DPS is in denial. Its spokesperson maintains that stops and searches spring 
only from "an indication of criminal activity based on our experience as 
police officers."

An assistant DPS chief chalked up the search rates for Hispanics to the 
fact that Texas borders Mexico. Troopers target drug traffickers and that 
line of work lends itself to Spanish speakers who live along the border, he 
said. But even with so many Hispanics being searched, only 10 percent of 
searches turn up contraband and the area of the state with the highest 
percentage of Hispanic searches is northeast Texas, far from the border.

A law enforcement agency knows it is in trouble when even its public 
statements disputing racial profiling begin to sound like racial profiling.

It is much better to deal with the problem rather than deny, dispute and 
dance around this subject. Racial profiling will be a stain on the uniform 
of America's law enforcement officers until good people, in and out of the 
profession, wipe it clean.

The Legislature has a chance to do that. Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, has 
introduced a bill to require Texas law enforcement agencies to collect 
race-based data on traffic stops. The West bill is a good first step, but 
mandatory data collection is not the end of the road.

The federal government will likely propose its own reforms now that 
President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have said that racial 
profiling will not be tolerated. Nor should it be tolerated by agencies 
that bear the final responsibility of policing their own. Offenders should 
receive suspensions, even dismissals.

Racial profiling is more than the newest cause celebre. It is more than an 
insult to groups of Americans who have, over time, suffered more than their 
share of insults. It is an old vestige of an ugly chapter in the last 
century that has no place in the new one.
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