If you’re trying to make sense out of recent Dispatch reporting on racial profiling by the Columbus Police Department (CPD), forget it. The Dispatch coverage suggests that since 28% of the traffic tickets issued in 1999 were given to African American drivers in Columbus and the city’s black population is 25%, there obviously isn’t any racial profiling.

James Moss, President of the Police Officers for Equal Rights (POER), the organization that spearheaded the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation of the Columbus Police, has a different take than the daily monopoly.

Moss, who holds a master’s degree, points out the obvious shortcomings in the Dispatch analysis. By uncritically reporting the statistical data supplied by Deputy Chief Rockwell of the Columbus Police, the paper bought the assumption that African Americans in Columbus are licensed drivers and use cars for transportation at the same rate as the white population. Labor statistics indicate that the black population is disproportionately younger, unemployed/underemployed and out of the labor market. They’re also disproportionately COTA bus users and far less likely to own or drive a car.

As Moss puts it, “Approximately 15.9% of the labor force is African American. [A] majority of the African American workforce do not own an automobile or have a driver’s license. Approximately 8% or less of the licensed drivers in Columbus are African Americans. So, if the statistical data is correct that was given by the Columbus Police Department, 28% represents probably cause that some Columbus police officers are engaged in racial profiling.”

One area where Moss insists that racial profiling is definitely going on is at the Port Columbus Airport. Moss asserts that former CPD Detective James Hagan came to POER in 1997 to report racist misconduct by the Columbus narcotics detectives at the airport. Hagan, then a 25-year veteran on the force with a solid reputation, according to Moss, disclosed that he was upset by his immediate supervisor Commander Panzera’s orders to use trained K-9 dogs to sniff paper currency of African Americans. Moss alleges that ticket agents were rewarded monetarily by the drug task force for helping to profile African Americans.

Among other allegations Moss leveled against the Narcotics Squad include: “Ticket agents from the different airlines would alert the Columbus Narcotics Squad of potential drug carriers based on race only”; “Paper currency belonging to African American travelers was seized by the Columbus Narcotics Squad and they were threatened with a felony drug arrest if they did not voluntarily give their money to the detectives”; “Illegal seizure of money was turned into the property room as evidence”; and “Commander Panzera informed Detective Hagan that he was not interested in his complaints about illegal stops and searches that violated federal civil rights laws.”

Moss says that departmental charges were filed against Hagan and his supervisors harassed him after he complained about CPD’s practices at the airport. Moss says the latest statistics from the Columbus Police show that out of 205 stops at the airport, 148 were African Americans, 38 were white and 19 were Hispanic. This means that 72% of all airport stops are African American.

Moss says even more shocking, 63 African American women were stopped, compared to only 6 white women, meaning 91% of the total female stops were black women.

On June 26, the POER again marched on City Hall to protest what they term “the crisis of the racial profiling, police misconduct, police brutality, disrespect of our African American women, and the attack on our children in the poor public school system.”

The POER is calling for a boycott of the July 4 “Red, White and Boom” celebration arguing that the founders represent “the white privileged class of people who some historians call patriots.” Contact POER at 253-4005.

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