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How Do the Laws of Probability Constrain Legislative and Judicial Efforts to Stop Racial Profiling?

  • Jeff Dominitz

Faced with pending legislation and litigation, numerous jurisdictions have begun programs to monitor a range of traffic stop outcomes, focusing on variation by race or ethnicity. Existing programs, however, ignore the unequal outcomes that motivate opposition to racial profiling. Statistical relationships limit the ability of public policy to equalize the various outcomes, even if officers do not engage in racial profiling to "any extent or degree." This article demonstrates relationships among five outcomes that are or should be considered when policy on racial profiling is formulated: search rates, find rates, thoroughness of search, rates of detention of the innocent, and rates of apprehension of the guilty. Once decisions are made as to how to balance desires for equality of each of these outcomes, problems remain that are common to statistical assessments of pattern- or practice-of-discrimination claims. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal American Law and Economics Review.

Volume (Year): 5 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 (August)
Pages: 412-432

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Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:5:y:2003:i:2:p:412-432
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