Vital Signs

Policing and Profiling

A growing nationwide disdain for police officers has resulted from several highly publicized shootings of “unarmed” minority men who have resisted arrest or attacked officers.  The media’s rhetoric has inflamed passions, resulting in the murders of two New York policemen seated in their cars, and the assassination of four Lakewood, Washington, officers eating in a restaurant.  There are many other incidents that include rioting and assaults on officers, including most recently the civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland.

Political figures, from President Obama down to the usual race-baiting self-appointed minority “leaders,” have criticized police actions, even when they are shown to be justified and the officers exonerated following exhaustive investigations and legal inquiries.  Conservatives and libertarians, justifiably concerned about militarization of the police, are overlooking the fact that today’s police face enormous difficulties—obstacles to effective police work and unnecessary threats to their lives.

The media have made profiling a dirty word.  But a police officer who does not “profile” is not doing his job.  Crime stats show that minorities commit most crimes of violence.  In a June 25, 2010, editorial in the New York Times, Heather Mac Donald writes that “Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98...

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