- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

New Jersey officials have released a study saying black drivers speed more often than others despite Justice Department efforts to keep the report under wraps, but they promised yesterday not to slow efforts at ending racial profiling.
State Attorney General David Samson said the $426,000 study did not undermine the state's admission that New Jersey law enforcement officers engage in racial profiling. He said he "remained committed" to its "eradication."
New Jersey State Police have been accused for more than a decade of racial profiling, particularly along the New Jersey Turnpike. In December 1999, the state signed a consent decree with the Justice Department to remedy the problem.
"The report was not required by the consent decree, nor does it change the course we are set upon. It does not alter the past or undermine the evidence that profiling is real," Mr. Samson said.
The Justice Department blocked the release of the study, saying there were numerous unanswered questions concerning the soundness of methods used by the researchers. The study was done by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Beltsville.
Mark Posner, senior trial attorney in the Justice Department's civil rights division, said he was concerned the study was skewed by factors such as weather, camera placement and glare on windshields.
"Based on the questions we have identified, it may well be that the results reported in the draft report are wrong or unreliable," Mr. Posner said in a letter to New Jersey officials.
One of the Justice Department's concerns centered on questions of whether study results were affected by the fact that researchers who determined the race of individual drivers did not have to be unanimous. Only two of the three had to agree on the race.
Also, there were questions concerning a decision by Pacific Institute to throw out a third of the data it collected after ruling it was unusable or unreliable because the quality of the photographs was so poor that the race of the drivers could not be determined.
Two years ago, the Justice Department forced officials in New Jersey to adopt new policies aimed at discouraging suspected racial profiling by state troopers and ordered a comprehensive study of the driving habits of motorists on the New Jersey Turnpike.
The Pacific Institute study, "Speed Violation Survey of the New Jersey Turnpike," used radar guns and high-speed photography at 14 locations along the 148-mile turnpike to help identify the race of drivers. It targeted only those drivers who exceeded the speed limit by more than 15 miles per hour.
More than 38,500 drivers were evaluated as they traveled along the turnpike in a 48-hour period last spring. Among drivers identified by race, the cameras more often caught black motorists speeding.
The study, completed in December 2001 but held because of Justice Department concerns, said black motorists were nearly twice as likely to speed as whites or Hispanics when the speed limit was posted at 65 mph. It said that the disproportion of blacks among drivers recorded at more than 90 mph was even higher.
According to the study, blacks made up 16 percent of the drivers on the turnpike and 25 percent of the speeders in the 65-mph zones, where complaints of racial profiling have been most common.
Robert B. Voas, one of the researchers who conducted the study, dismissed Justice Department concerns, saying he was "quite confident" that any competent scientific review would validate the report.
"We looked solely at numbers, and that's what the report shows. We're quite confident in its validity," he said, adding that the study was being sent this week to a "respectable journal" for review.
In Newark yesterday, the head of the state's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter called the study an attempt to vindicate state troopers who practice racial profiling. The Rev. William Rutherford said he had not read the study but didn't believe its findings.
"We're only 12 percent of the population. If you arrested every white person that was speeding and every black person that was speeding, common sense will tell you that you're going to arrest more whites than blacks," he said.

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