Thanks to Big Country, I saw a story that came out yesterday about the Seattle Police Department no longer performing traffic stops. I met my wife after work last night- we went to the house of one of her friends. Another of her liberal teacher friends who was there was talking about this story with me. He is all in favor of it. I shot several holes in his argument.
His claim was that there is no reason for police to do a traffic stop when they can simply take down your tag number and mail a ticket to your house. Traffic stops, he says, are an escalation and almost ensures that the subjects of these stops will be nervous or scared, thus also ensuring that there will be some kind of violence that will end with the police shooting people.
I replied, “So you don’t think the cops should ever stop anyone?” He replied no, and I told him that as a paramedic who has responded to perhaps 25,000 car accidents in his career and seen hundreds of fatalities as a result, that I disagree. People would soon drive even worse than they already do. He replied that people mainly have any good driving habits because they are afraid of getting a ticket, so mailing out those tickets would have the same effect.
This was where I laughed and said, “I will just remove the license plate from my car and never get another ticket in my life. After all, if there are no traffic stops, without a tag, you have no idea where to send the ticket.”
His reply was that, of course police would stop you for no tags. I said, “Oh, so SOME traffic stops are ok?” He says yes, in cases where there are no tags, or for safety reasons. So now I move on to- what about suspected DUI? Yes. What about someone speeding? Yes, but only if someone is 25 mph or more over the speed limit. What would prevent the police from simply lowering speed limits by 25 mph? What about the kid who gets hit by a car going 44 mph in a school zone?
So then he moved the goalposts. He said that his problem was that the police use traffic stops to profile people. His daughter (white, liberal, purple hair and many piercings) lives in a ghetto, all black neighborhood and drives a red, lowrider Honda with dark tinted windows. She “gets pulled over all of the time” they question her and then “let her go because she is white.”
I said, “But profiling works.” He replied: “What?”
“Look, you are a cop. You are trying to prevent crime, or at least catch a criminal. It’s kind of your job. Which scenario will likely accomplish that- Stopping a 60 year old man driving a Lexus in a neighborhood of half million dollar homes, or a red Honda with dark tinted windows and a coffee can muffler being driven by a couple of white kids in an all black neighborhood that is notorious for drug sales and random drive by shootings?”
To his credit, he admitted that the Honda is most likely. Then I said, “Could it be that they let your daughter go because they could see that she wasn’t breaking the law, and not merely because she was white? Is it possible that they let black people go without a ticket as well?”
Then I had to let it go, because my wife was giving me “the look” for grilling her coworkers.
The fact is this: Florida did a study of traffic stops. They found out that blacks are not stopped in numbers that are out of proportion to the population of the areas where the stop is made. That is, in areas where all of the residents are black, police stop- mostly black people. Not because they are black, but because that is who is driving in that area.