Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVII, No. 563 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY October 15, 2001

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Mass. exodus; pitbull wanted; Bushís man; St. Pete repeat; tops at COPS; executive Chambers.
Gimme some skin: Palm prints lend investigators a helping hand.
Bad harvest: Miami cops plant guns, reap troubles.
Anybody home? While the homeownerís away, Largo cops are checking on the house.
A bear market: Storefront police stations are no wholesale success.
Now more than ever: E-911 systems, with their cell phone-tracking capability, are urgently needed, but the industry isnít ready.
Bad news, worse news: Observers say an ongoing scandal in an upstate New York city is no surprise.
Youth shall be served: Greensboro first four police cadets are off to college.
Forum: When is racial profiling okay?
Six months down: The number of police deaths is up sharply in just the first half of this year ó and that doesnít include the World Trade Center death toll.
Revised forecast: Are Americans changing their tune on racial profiling?

Note to Readers:

The opinions expressed on the Forum page are those of the contributing writer or cartoonist, or of the original source newspaper, and do not represent an official position of Law Enforcement News.

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Arm our pilots now ó among other steps

      When thugs menace someone because he looks Arabic, thatís racism. When airport security officials single out Arabic-looking men for a more intrusive inspection, thatís something else. What is the difference? The difference is that the airport security folks have a rational reason for what they do. An Arab-looking man heading toward a plane is statistically more likely to be a terrorist. That likelihood is infinitesimal, but the whole airport rigmarole is based on infinitesimal chances. If trying to catch terrorists this way makes sense at all, then Willie-Sutton logic says you should pay more attention to people who look like Arabs than to people who donít. This is true even if you are free of all ethnic prejudices. Itís not racism.
      But that doesnít make it okay. Much of the discrimination that is outlawed in this country ó correctly outlawed, we (almost) all agree ó could be justified, often sincerely, by reasons other than racial prejudice. All decisions about whom to hire, whom to admit, whose suitcase to ransack as heís rushing to catch a plane are based on generalizations from observable characteristics to unobservable ones. But even statistically valid generalizations are wrong in particular instances. (Many blacks are better prepared for college than many whites. Virtually every Arab hassled at an airport is not a terrorist.) Because even rational discrimination has victims, and because certain generalizations are especially poisonous, America has decided that these generalizations (about race, gender, religion and so on) are morally wrong. They are wrong even if they are statistically valid, and even if not acting on them imposes a real cost...