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Eric Holder announces $4.5 million to probe police stops for racism

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The name of the new Justice Department initiative — the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice — sounds like something straight out of D.C. Comics. Yet, there is nothing comical (at least not intentionally) about Attorney General Eric Holder’s latest effort to correct the “overrepresentation of young men of color in our criminal justice system.”

CNN notes that Holder announced his new $4.75 million pilot program Monday. The Center, he explained in a video, would collect data from police stops, searches, and arrests in five cities over a two-year period in order to protect minorities from being singled out.

Holder explained that the initiative was an outgrowth of the Trayvon Martin case (a federal civil rights investigation into which is ongoing) and from Barack Obama’s commitment to improving trust between law enforcement and the minority communities (presumably by declaring in cases with which he has only a fleeting familiarity that the “police acted stupidly”).

The AG cited a study showing the majority of black men are arrested at least once by age 23 and are six times more likely than white men to be imprisoned. The figure for Latinos was 2.5 times higher than whites.

What he didn’t cite was the reason for this disparity, which he assumes is racism. In his video, he spoke of a need for “fundamental fairness,” adding that:

Racial disparities contribute to tension in our nation generally and within communities of color specifically, and tend to breed resentment towards law enforcement that is counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime.

There is no doubt that minorities feel resentment toward law enforcement, but there is plenty of doubt that their higher arrest rate necessarily derive from a lack of fundamental fairness — a point that Holder takes as a matter of faith.

But as Arnold Ahlert of Canada Free Press notes, blacks and Hispanics are arrested and imprisoned at higher rates than their white counterparts because they commit crimes at much higher rates. For example, black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicides at ten times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined.

A 2009 op-ed in the New York Times by Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute bears out his findings:

Based on reports filed by victims, blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crime in New York in 2009, including 80 percent of shootings and 71 percent of robberies. Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98 percent of reported gun assaults. And the vast majority of the victims of violent crime were also members of minority groups.

Non-Hispanic whites, on the other hand, committed 5 percent of the city’s violent crimes in 2009, 1.4 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies.

It’s easy to imagine Holder objecting to stats gathered in 2009. The impetus for his agenda, after all, is crime committed in 2012. Fine. From Ahlert:

According to the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Reports, black Americans committed more than 49 percent of all homicides, and 55 percent of all robberies, despite representing less than 13 percent of the nation’s overall population. This compares to 48 percent of homicides and 43 percent of robberies perpetrated by whites and Hispanics combined.

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