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Eric Holder Challenge: I've Found Cities in Southern California with Below Average Black Arrest Rates!
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March 06, 2015, 05:07 PM
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As you’ve likely heard, Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that he was shocked, shocked to discover arresting of blacks going on in Ferguson, Missouri at a higher rate than for the population as a whole.

But, is Ferguson unique in blacks getting in trouble with the law more than whites? Indeed, I asked, how many municipalities don’t have a racial disparity in arrest rates? I then made some suggestions for finding some towns with racial equality in arrest rates.

Commenter Anthony pointed out that USA Today had recently asked that question and crunched all the data for a 2011-2012 period.

Racial gap in U.S. arrest rates: ‘Staggering disparity’ Brad Heath, USA TODAY 2:24 p.m. EST November 19, 2014

When it comes to racially lopsided arrests, the most remarkable thing about Ferguson, Mo., might be just how ordinary it is.

Police in Ferguson — which erupted into days of racially charged unrest after a white officer killed an unarmed black teen — arrest black people at a rate nearly three times higher than people of other races.

At least 1,581 other police departments across the USA arrest black people at rates even more skewed than in Ferguson, a USA TODAY analysis of arrest records shows. That includes departments in cities as large and diverse as Chicago and San Francisco and in the suburbs that encircle St. Louis, New York and Detroit. …

To measure the breadth of arrest disparities, USA TODAY examined data that police departments report to the FBI each year. For each agency, USA TODAY compared the number of black people arrested during 2011 and 2012 with the number who lived in the area the department protects. (The FBI tracks arrests by race; it does not track arrests of Hispanics.)

The review did not include thousands of smaller departments or agencies that serve areas with only a small black population. It also did not include police agencies in most parts of Alabama, Florida and Illinois because those states had not reported complete arrest data to the FBI.

The review showed:

• Blacks are more likely than others to be arrested in almost every city for almost every type of crime. Nationwide, black people are arrested at higher rates for crimes as serious as murder and assault, and as minor as loitering and marijuana possession.

• Arrest rates are particularly lopsided in some pockets of the country, including St. Louis’ Missouri suburbs near Ferguson. In St. Louis County alone, more than two dozen police departments had arrest rates more lopsided than Ferguson’s. In nearby Clayton, Mo., for example, only about 8% of residents are black, compared with about 57% of people the police arrested, according to the city’s FBI reports. Clayton’s police chief, Kevin Murphy, said in a prepared statement that “Ferguson has laid bare the fact that everyone in law enforcement needs to take a hard look at how we can better serve our communities and address any disparities that have existed in our departments for too long.”

• Deep disparities show up even in progressive university towns. USA TODAY found police in Berkeley, Calif., and Madison, Wis., arrested black people at a rate more than nine times higher than members of other racial groups. Madison Police Chief Michael Koval said most of the arrests happen in the poorest sections of the city, which are disproportionately black, and where some residents have pleaded for even more police presence. Still, he said, “I think it would be remiss to suggest the police get out of this whole thing with a free pass. We have to constantly be doing the introspective look at who we are hiring and how we are training.”

• Arrest rates are lopsided almost everywhere. Only 173 of the 3,538 police departments USA TODAY examined arrested black people at a rate equal to or lower than other racial groups.

I was, of course, struck by there being 173 police departments where there was no disparity.

What are these places?

USA Today doesn’t provide the data in tabular form. You have to look at a hard-t0-manipulate map for each state.

I checked out my guess of Minot, North Dakota, which is near an Air Force base. But the black arrest rate is a little over 4 times the non-black rate there.

So I looked at the Southern half of California. There are four places within about 150 miles of Los Angeles that have no disparity in arrest rates:

Chino, Norco, Tehachapi, and Delano.

What else do they have in common?

Chino is home to the California Institution for Men, which gets only 2 out of 5 stars from its Yelp reviewers: e.g., “It’s prison…..nuff said….”

Norco is home to the California Rehabilitation Center.

Tehachapi’s best known accommodations were recently declared to be "the worst of any SHU, prison or jail I have seen in 23 years.”

And Delano is home to the Kern Valley State Prison.

Commenter Donut suggested a couple of days ago:

How about any town with a correctional facility , the prison pop. is majority black and most towns with prisons are maj. white yet the prisoners are counted as residents of the town . The prisoners obviously can’t commit crimes in the town , one would hope and hey, presto ! a large group of law abiding Negros surrounded by a white criminal class .