Metro Police Department denies accusations of racial profiling

Chief Anderson with State Representative Harold Love looking on as he speaks with the media about the fatal shooting of Jocques Clemmons.

Chief Anderson with State Representative Harold Love looking on as he speaks with the media about the fatal shooting of Jocques Clemmons.

The Metro Nashville Police Department has responded to accusations from Gideon’s Army that the department uses racial profiling in policing.

“I categorically deny racial profiling is an element of any MNPD policing strategies and would undertake appropriate action to remove any officer that is determined to have engaged in such conduct,” according to a news release from the Metro Nashville Police Department.

The response, released Tuesday, said the Driving While Black report didn’t document any such incidents.

“The assumption relies solely on the disparity in the African American census data compared to the vehicle stop data. Any such disparity does not constitute racial profiling and responsible researchers would also advise that disparity alone is not evidence of bias,” the release said.

Metro Police said the report’s census data doesn’t take into account the department’s deployment of resources or other disparities.

“Ignoring these real disparities of victimization in our African American communities by seeking to divide or drive a wedge into police community relations by attempting to draw attention to a false narrative of racial profiling, without clear evidence, is morally disingenuous,” the release read.

The response from the Nashville Metro Police Dept. follows:
“Regarding resolution no. RS2016-459, requesting response from the MNPD regarding findings in a recent report regarding MNPD traffic stop statistics in Nashville, I provide the following information, comment and context.

“Previous correspondence copied to you and the presentation by Commander Terrence Graves at the Council hearing on this matter has made it clear that we take exception to the conclusions drawn in this report. Most egregious is the accusation of racial profiling. I categorically deny racial profiling is an element of any MNPD policing strategies and would undertake appropriate action to remove any officer that is determined to have engaged in such conduct.

“Although the term ‘racial profiling’ used more than 20 times throughout the report, there is no documented account of any such incident or incidents. It seems apparent that none of these persons described in the report have contacted the Office of Professional Responsibility about their allegations so that a thorough investigation can be conducted. If true, I would encourage you to facilitate that; for if racial profiling is occurring, I assure you that we want to investigate it.

“The assumptions made in the report rely solely on the disparity in the African American census data compared to the vehicle stop data. As to this disparity, a competent and responsible researcher and statistician can reveal, simply by the numbers, that there is in fact a disparity. Those same people will tell you that, alone, the numbers cannot tell you the reasons, good or bad, that the disparity exists. Those reasons can be revealed, or at least hypothesized, only with additional, exhaustive research and analysis. That was not done in this situation.

Conveniently, the report fails to offer any accepted definition of racial profiling. As in any discussion, it is most helpful to know the definition of a term before making a determination as to whether it exists.

“A commonly accepted definition of racial profiling, or bias based policing, the selection of individuals for enforcement intervention based solely on a common trait of a group, such as race, ethnic origin, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or age.

Or, the use of race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense.

“The American Civil Liberties Union has defined racial profiling as the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.

“The National Institute of Justice has stated that racial profiling by law enforcement is commonly defined as a practice that targets people for suspicion of crime based on their race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.

Again, this report contained no documented account of any such incident or incidents. The assumption relies solely on the disparity in the African American census data compared to the vehicle stop data. Any such disparity does not constitute racial profiling and responsible researchers would also advise that disparity alone is not evidence of bias.

“The fallacy of the entire report is the utilization of census data to support the allegations of racial profiling.

It has been long settled in the academic world that census data is not an appropriate or meaningful benchmark to support or refute any allegation of racial profiling. To repeat: Census data is not an appropriate benchmark. While census data has its purpose, it is only a snapshot, as best as can be determined, of where people live. Census data does not take into consideration where people drive their vehicles. As you know, Nashville is a vibrant community, surrounded by not only counties who provide Nashville with a workforce, but also is home to over 20 colleges, universities, technological schools and institutes of higher learning-of these, we are proud to be home to at least four colleges that would be considered historically black colleges and universities. The U.S. Census Bureau struggles to answer the question where these college students are counted-with somewhere between 40-80,000 college students in Nashville-what effect does that have on Census accuracy; while clearly having an effect on who drives in Nashville. Similarly, an often-unknown element of the census is prison populations.

Clearly, with Nashville home to several large state prison facilities and private prison facilities, the population and demographics of the prison population clearly have an effect on Census data yet demonstrate an inherent flaw in using Census data to analyze who drives in the same city.

“Although the report attempts to refine its analysis by utilizing census block and census tract comparisons, as opposed to overall city or county census comparisons, the same fallacy exists. People do not drive round and round limiting their driving only to their census block or census tract. In fact most people have no idea where their census block or tract ends or begins.

People travel broadly across the city and the county, to school, run errands, to work, to shop, to visit family and friends. With the convergence of three US interstates, even more, possibly hundreds of thousands-if not more, pass through Nashville in route to Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, Knoxville and even further. Often they exit to get gas, sight see, shop and then move on.

Clearly these people make up the driving population but are never considered in Census data.”