Monday, December 29, 2014

Houston Racial Profiling?

The protests continue to swell and the media doggedly persists in bringing the story to light about an unarmed black man (Jordan Baker) killed in Houston recently by officer, Juventino Castro.

Since Castro is apparently not black but of Hispanic descent, a question has been raised about whether he violated the Houston policy against racial profiling--this is why the story has been receiving so much media scrutiny.
Activist Deric Muhammad said the decision confirmed Houston as "Ferguson, Texas."
"Jordan Baker was bothering nobody. He didn't have a weapon on him," Muhammad said. "He was racially profiled."
So are the activists right?  Or have parts of their brains been addled by political correctness such that they are no longer able to think straight on such matters?  What do we know and what does Houston consider racial profiling to be? What is racial profiling?
The news reports are sketchy and obviously we don't have the grand jury evidence.  From the best of my knowledge here is what happened: Castro knew there had been robberies in the area.  He saw  Baker looking into windows and that Baker met the description of a suspect who was wearing a black hoodie.  A scuffle then took place after Baker was stopped for questioning, Baker fled, and then according to Castro's testimony (and only according to his testimony), Baker charged him in an alley and looked like he had a weapon.  He was then shot and killed.

OK, those are the facts as far as I can tell after reading the top 8 news reports on Google.  If there's other relevant data out there, let's hear it.  Now here is what Houston says about racial profiling.

This is from the Houston government website:

Racial Profiling Prohibited
The Houston Police Department has established a policy, General Order 600-42, concerning the prohibition of racial profiling as set out in state and federal laws concerning racial profiling and discriminatory practices in general. Discrimination in any form, including racial profiling, is strictly prohibited and the department will take immediate and appropriate action to investigate allegations of discrimination. This policy applies to all members of the Houston Police Department both classified and non-classified.

Note from TB: This is fairly sloppy language.  If police aren't permitted  to discriminate in any form, they won't be permitted to discriminate between a tree and a man holding a shotgun.  Presumably what they mean is that unjust discrimination is prohibited. (But then why not say that?)

What is Racial Profiling?
Racial profiling is any law enforcement-initiated action based on an individual’s race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than on the individual’s behavior or information identifying the individual as having engaged in criminal activity.

Examples of racial profiling include but are not limited to the following:
•   Initiating a motor vehicle stop on a particular vehicle because of the race, ethnicity, or national origin of the driver of a vehicle 
•   Stopping or detaining the driver of a vehicle based on the determination that a person of that race, ethnicity, or national origin is unlikely to own or possess that specific make or model of vehicle
•  Stopping or detaining an individual based on the determination that a person of that race, ethnicity, or national origin does not belong in a specific part of town or a specific place

OK, there we have it.  It is not racial profiling (e.g.) to hear over the police scanner that a black youth wearing a black hoody is looking in windows where numerous burglaries have occurred and question the individual on the basis that he fits the description of a black suspect and is acting suspiciously.  It is racial profiling when one engages in a law enforcement based action only on the basis of race while ignoring behavior or all other relevant information.  Basically, one cannot stop a motor vehicle simply because someone is Chinese; one cannot detain a black man simply because he is black and walking in a white neighborhood; in short, the statute is an expression of common sense.

So given what we know and what racial profiling means in the case at hand, there appears to be absolutely no evidence that there was racial profiling in this case.  None.  One might disagree with the police officer's actions in other ways, but the evidence for a violation of racial profiling is nil. 

Now, one might also object to the definition given above of racial profiling.  If so, then we have a right to be given the alternative definition.  Of course one might be tempted to skirt the sometimes difficult task of defining one's terms and laying out arguments; instead one might yield to the temptation to be cute and say something like, "this is racial profiling":

Resist the temptation.  Avoid the memes of the masses.  And always, always, always make those on the left define their terms--otherwise there is no point in talking with them about political matters. 

For more on leftist rhetoric see this post.

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