To the Editor:
Chris Powell writes that the tracking and reporting of traffic stops and police Taser deployment, as advocated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, constitute a distraction from more pressing problems, such as racially discriminatory drug-free zones. (“Traffic Stops, Stun Guns Aren’t The Race Problem,” Connecticut Law Tribune, June 23.)
While Mr. Powell recognizes the racism inherent in the drug-free zone law, which has the practical effect of harsher penalties against members of minority groups, he seems not to recognize that biased policing and overpolicing have the same effect. When people of color are subjected to more intense police scrutiny than white people, whether that is because police officers have personal biases or because minority neighborhoods are more closely patrolled by law enforcement, the result is a racially disproportionate arrest rate.
When Mr. Powell asserts that “crime itself is highly correlated with race,” he confuses the arrest rate with the crime rate, thus committing a fundamental error of logic. The relationship among race, arrests and crime is far more complicated than that. When we learn that white people and African-American people use marijuana at approximately the same rate and yet African-Americans are 3.73 times more likely to be charged with possession of marijuana, it’s clear that black criminality is not the problem.
Just what the problem might be is of critical importance to justice, and it is the point of collecting data about how police enforce the law. Facts will always aid the cause of justice, not distract from it. And reforming the drug-free zone law is also an important goal, which is why the ACLU of Connecticut has been pursuing it for many years.•
American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut