Democrats Seek Retention Of US Crime-Stats Chief


Democrats in Congress are calling for the reinstatement of a Justice Department official who objected to his supervisors’ demand to play down the findings of a report on racial profiling, reports the New York Times. The White House is replacing Lawrence Greenfeld, director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), after he complained that senior political officials were seeking to distort publicly the findings of the statistical report by his agency. The report found that blacks and Hispanics were much more likely to have their vehicles searched or be subjected to the use of force once they were stopped. Greenfeld objected to efforts by superiors at the Justice Department to delete references to the racial or ethnic disparities from a planned news release. In a letter yesterday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, six Democrats called for Greenfeld’s reinstatement. The letter said the Justice Department must “be forthcoming about these troubling statistics” from the report and that it was “essential that all data and statistical conclusions be free from political manipulation.”

The incident points to the need to kill a provision of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that restricts BJS independence, Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University, a former president othe American Society of Criminology, told Crime & Justice News. The clause requires BJS to clear grants and publications with an Assistant Attorney General. The Greenfeld case, Blumstein says, “highlights the importance of the independence Congress mandated years ago when it was shown that research and statistics were under excessive control” by political appointees. The Justice Departmement has stressed that the police-stop report was posted on the Web without a press realese. Responds Blumstein: “What the public learns is predominantly what shows up in the press release. It is important that information given to the public not be distorted for political reasons.”


Comments are closed.