Police Fail to Collect Racial Data

In news in the U.S., the Boston Herald is reporting that forty percent of police departments are not collecting data tracking whether minority drivers are disproportionately stopped for traffic violations which, of course, has made it difficult to draw any conclusions about whether police unfairly target Black drivers. Under a Massachusetts state program launched two years ago, 247 police departments were asked to record specific data about their traffic stops, including race and gender of the driver. A review of data by the recently elected African American Governor Deval Patrick’s administration found that only 140 of the police departments followed the guidelines.

The fact that the police departments are not collecting statistics that may reveal racial (and gender) discrimination, is not surprising. The policy of asking organizations and institutions to report on their own discriminatory practices is, at the very least, deeply flawed if not doomed to failure. The other lesson to take away from this story is the dead-end road of thinking in terms of “color blindness” or “eliminating” racial categorization while racist practices, such as police racial profiling in traffic stops, continue.

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