Thomas Sowell

In much of the liberal media, large-scale confrontations between police and people who are breaking the law are usually reported in one of two ways. Either the police used "excessive force" or they "let the situation get out of hand."

Any force sufficient to prevent the situation from getting out of hand will be called "excessive." And if the police arrive in large enough numbers to squelch disorder without the need for force, then sending in so many cops will be called "over-reacting." After all, with so little resistance to the police, why were so many cops necessary? Such is the mindset of the media.

Add the volatile factor of race and the media will have a field day. If an incident involves a white cop and a black criminal, you don't need to know the facts to know how liberals in the media will react. You can predict the words and the music.

Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute does have the facts, however, in her new book, Are Cops Racist? <purchase> <read's review> Unfortunately, those who most need to read this book are the least likely to do so. They have made up their minds and don't want to be confused by facts.

For the rest of us, this is a very enlightening and very readable little book. Ms. Mac Donald first tackles the issue of "racial profiling" by the police and shows what shoddy and even silly statistical methods were used to gin up hysteria. Then she moves on to police shootings and other law-enforcement issues.

Suppose I were to tell you that, despite the fact that blacks are just 11 percent of the American population, more than half the men fined for misconduct while playing professional basketball are black -- and concluded that this shows the NBA to be racist. What would your reaction be?

"Wait a minute!" you might say. "More than half the players in the NBA are black. So that 11 percent statistic is irrelevant."

That is exactly what is wrong with "racial profiling" statistics. It is based on blacks as a percentage of the population, rather than blacks as a percentage of the people who do the kinds of things that cause police to stop people and question them.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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