The pending removal of the U.S. Justice Department’s chief statistician is causing concern in the Washington policymaking community. Lawrence Greenfeld, a career employee appointed in 2001 to head the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), is being sent to another agency after an internal dispute over a press release involving race and traffic stops. The move was reported yesterday by the New York Times. Crime & Justice News has learned that Sarah Hart, director of the Justice Department’s research arm, also is leaving to teach criminology at Rutgers University. The Washington Post says that Rep. John Conyers Jr., ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, would ask the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to examine the Greenfeld case. “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.
The study found that after drivers are stopped by police, blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched, handcuffed, arrested, and subjected to force or the threat of it, the Associated Press reports. Greenfeld wanted to mention the racial disparities in a press release. His political supervisors disagreed, the Times reported, and the study was posted on the Justice Department Web site absent the release. “When someone in law enforcement who is willing to speak the truth about racial profiling gets demoted for it, that’s absolutely chilling,” Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, told the Associated Press. Howard Silver of the Washington-based Consortium of Social Science Associations told Crime & Justice News that his group supports the “independence and integrity” of agencies like BJS. “Burying bad news isn’t the way to protect systems of independece and integrity,” he said. No replacements have been announced for Greenfeld and Hart; their jobs require Senate confirmation.