Police stops of black motorists in Nassau County, N.Y., were proportionately higher than the percentage of black residents living in the county, Newsday reports. Of the nearly 80,000 stopped motorists whose race was recorded by Nassau police last year, 14 percent were black in a county where blacks constitute 10.7 of the population. Sixty-five percent of the stopped motorists were white; whites made up 77.3 percent of all residents. Nassau police said the gap does not represent racial profiling but may be a reflection of efforts to step up overall enforcement in areas of higher crime.
Critics say the numbers are evidence of profiling. Experts caution against drawing conclusions because the residential population can vary from the driving population. “If the residential benchmark were accurate, it would only be by a great stroke of luck,” said Jeffrey Grogger of the University of Chicago who has studied racial profiling among police. Collecting data on the driving population would not be feasible, said First Deputy Commissioner Robert McGuigan. “We have thousands of miles of roadway,” he said. “It would be such a massive undertaking that it’s not practical.” Across the nation, researchers and police departments — including those in 25 states required to record data on racial profiling — have grappled with the issue of how to interpret the collected information. “Probably the best method is sending teams out to observe the traffic,” to get a scientific estimate of the driving population, said David Harris, a law professor at the University of Toledo.