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Police profiling in C-town?

By Beau Locks 16 February 2013 31

police road block

This afternoon I was on my treadly heading towards the AIS on the bike path when I noticed the north bound traffic on Gunghalin Drive at a virtual standstill. Upon investigating, I discovered that the cops were conducting a sizeable RBT/other drug testing operation a bit further along the road.

As I’ve previously noted here, the drug testing regime instituted by our council is an ineffectual folly. It doesn’t test for key substances that impair driving (e.g. opiates or benzos) and it doesn’t test whether your driving is actually impaired – it merely alerts the funstoppers that whoever they’ve tested has taken drugs at some point or other (in which case they should re-label the exercise as testing for whether or not people have been using drugs so that they can punish them).

Given my curiosity in the subject, I decided to watch on from a safe distance. What was striking was who was singled out for the special tests, and who just got the run of the mill RBT. After watching for about 15 minutes, I saw about ten drivers asked to give a saliva sample. (I must admit I didn’t count: it could have been eight, it could have been twelve.) Of these drivers, however, all were either young, tradesmen in utes, or both. I think only one was a woman. Of the non-utes, all of the cars were over five years old.

It was fascinating to watch. The cop closest to the oncoming traffic was essentially responsible for triage. The RBTs were, for the most part, genuinely random. But any buggy that was a bit older, P-plated, or a ute stood virtually no chance of getting past without being pulled in for an RBT. Once the copper had pulled over the offending vehicle he would eyeball the driver when they put the window down, and then make an assessment. I managed to guess whether they’d get an RBT or be asked to mill around and do the saliva sample with a remarkable degree of accuracy.

Regardless of whether what I witnessed was pure coincidence, whether the tactic is fair enough, and whether the cop in question had been instructed to employ it, I thought it worth posting. Any thoughts? Has anyone else witnessed this type of profiling?


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Police profiling in C-town?
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Ben_Dover 10:43 am 19 Feb 13

I’ll do that again, this time in English….

Of course, if the police had not been “profiling” we would have had a run of;

After watching for about 15 minutes, I saw about ten drivers asked to give a saliva sample. (I must admit I didn’t count: it could have been eight, it could have been twelve.)

Of these drivers, however, some were old grannies in their Sunday best. I think only one was a young man. Of the cars pulled only one was an ute, only 2 of the cars were over five years old. What a waste of police time and money, surely they should be able to pick out the more likely suspects and test those?!?!?

I saw them flag through a micro bus full of Rastafarians, with smoke billowing out of the windows, and ganja leaf decor all over it!!

Just police resources being wasted to promote some sort of politically correct equality.”

posts…

Ben_Dover 10:41 am 19 Feb 13

Of course, if the police had not been “profiling” we would have had a run of;

” After watching for about 15 minutes, I saw about ten drivers asked to give a saliva sample. (I must admit I didn’t count: it could have been eight, it could have been twelve.)

Of these drivers, however, some were old grannies in their Sunday best. I think only one was a young man. Of the cars pulled only one was an utes, only 2 of the cars were over five years old. What a wate of police time and money, surely they should be able to pick out the more likely suspects and test those. I saw them flag through a micro bus full of Rastafarians with smoke billowing out of the windows and ganja leaf decor all over it!!

Just police resources being wasted to promote some sort of politically correct equality.”

milkman 6:19 am 19 Feb 13

IrishPete said :

milkman said :

Except they don’t only test drivers who they believe more likely to offend. They test everyone. Based on the testing of everyone they then develop profiles.

And they continue to test everyone, but focus on testing more of the people who meet the ‘likely offender’ profiles.

Remember too that profiling includes much more than background and vehicle type. It also includes factors such as location, direction, time of day, etc.

This response completely fails the internal logic test. First they’ier testing everyone. Then they’re targeting (focusing). But still testing everyone. I think you’ve been using something and should be tested. I’m over the legal blood alcohol level to drive, so am shutting the PC down now.

And just to prove me right http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-02-18/victoria-police-to-hold-racial-profiling-inquiry/4525256?section=vic including the discussion of statistics.

IP

Sorry IP but that isn’t correct. When conducting this sort of operation the police sample many people. The profiling is used as a means to focus, not exclude. Not fitting a profile means you could still be tested, just as fitting a profile doesn’t guarantee that you will.

RedDogInCan 11:16 pm 18 Feb 13

Pitchka said :

Good on them for being out there and conducting these tests.

Umm, it’s their job. I’m sure they weren’t out there of there own choosing.

Jane Doe said :

Who cares if they profile as long as the impaired drivers are the off the road.

Easy to say if you don’t fit the profile.

IrishPete 10:01 pm 18 Feb 13

milkman said :

Except they don’t only test drivers who they believe more likely to offend. They test everyone. Based on the testing of everyone they then develop profiles.

And they continue to test everyone, but focus on testing more of the people who meet the ‘likely offender’ profiles.

Remember too that profiling includes much more than background and vehicle type. It also includes factors such as location, direction, time of day, etc.

This response completely fails the internal logic test. First they’ier testing everyone. Then they’re targeting (focusing). But still testing everyone. I think you’ve been using something and should be tested. I’m over the legal blood alcohol level to drive, so am shutting the PC down now.

And just to prove me right http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-02-18/victoria-police-to-hold-racial-profiling-inquiry/4525256?section=vic including the discussion of statistics.

IP

peitab 4:10 pm 18 Feb 13

IrishPete said :

milkman said :

IrishPete said :

Now substitute Aboriginal, or “Middle-Eastern appearance”, or male, and you have legimitised racist and sexist policing. And you’ve started to explain the over-representation of some groups in prison, and the under-representation of others.

IP

In the broader sense you may be right IP (although I’d enjoy the opportunity to discuss that further), but in the particular situation we’re discussing the two aren’t like comparators (i.e. P-platers aren’t similar in concept to Aboriginal, Middle Eastern or male).

By definition the latter groups are exclusive – not everyone can be Aboriginal, Middle Eastern or male. P-platers are inclusive – everyone who wishes to drive on Australian roads must at some point be a P-plater. Because of that dichotomy I’m quite happy with police ‘profiling’ that incorporates P-platers, as we have all had/will have the opportunity to be targeted by police.

In the end, any RBT ‘profiling’ activity comes down to the fact the police have finite resources and they’re looking to use their resources efficiently, rather than indiscriminately spending time and money. Whether the current profiling mix is optimal is another question.

Lookout Smithers 2:25 pm 18 Feb 13

Henry82 said :

1. buy a nice car
2. take drugs
3. Don’t get selected for random drug tests
4. ….
5. ????
6. PROFIT!!!

Haha, Gold!

Henry82 1:25 pm 18 Feb 13

1. buy a nice car
2. take drugs
3. Don’t get selected for random drug tests
4. ….
5. ????
6. PROFIT!!!

p1 11:19 am 18 Feb 13

IrishPete said :

Now substitute … “Middle-Eastern appearance”,…

I suspect that the drunk driving rates amongst this demographic is slightly below the national average.

Pitchka 10:32 am 18 Feb 13

Good on them for being out there and conducting these tests.

PBO 10:16 am 18 Feb 13

As someone who was stuck in this mess of a Police operation, I can certainly say that I witnessed profiling.

Earlier that day I had attended damned groovy friday arvo where everything was beautiful, music sounded better and the conversation was deep, I was having a damn fine day until I got to the GDE. I saw the build up and though that it was a severe accident until it dawned on me that it was not the case, I was s***ting bricks when I saw the bus and thought that I was done for until I saw the s***ty black SS C-Dore behind me with the 2 twenty something “wannabe “tradies”, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Heckle and Jeckle trying to look straight and non-dodgy in a SS Holden Police Target.

No way in hell would I be pulled over with these guys behind me……..and I was right. They cops took one look at me and realised that I was a complete contrast to these guys and let me through with the intention of doing one of these guys for something or other (they both looked guilty as sin) and saving Gunghalin from another potential single mother with 2.5 kids and a flatscreen.

I drove off into the sunset with a rapid heart-rate and the smell of spilt bong water in the car and a feeling of luck that had been pushed too far.

Beau Locks 10:03 am 18 Feb 13

Note that in my post I was careful not to pass judgement about the merits or otherwise of what I observed vis-a-vis the randomness or otherwise of the operation. Now I will.

The legislation enabling the drug testing refers to random drug testing. It does not refer to singling out certain types of people based largely, it would appear, on the type of car they were driving (the drivers not being easily recognised in the lighting conditions until such time as they wound down their windows). What was interesting from my vantage point on the other side of the road was that occasionally a nice looking car would get moved on to RBT with a young person in it, presumably driving a car belonging to their parents. These people didn’t get the saliva test. Perhaps because their demographic wasn’t immediately obvious. (It was once they’d wound down the window for the RBT, but by then they’d passed the triage plod.)

Quite regardless, this episode highlights the type of bad people that are being targeted. Someone who’s had a few Xanax before picking the kids up from school and driving home will not be picked up. Their driving may be impaired, but they have a prescription. Likewise someone that’s just gobbled down some heavy duty painkillers. The packet might have a warning, but again they have a prescription. Ping various other drugs and health conditions.

RBT is shown to be effective at reducing drink driving at a population level, and recidivism is pretty low. Drug testing has, at best, a sketchy evidence base. Maybe when the science is a bit more developed it would make sense. Further, based on what I saw, drug testing is very resource intensive. It took ages to administer, and has costs at the back end for analysing samples and buying big nicely painted trucks and stuff.

So, why not focus on impairment? Why not focus on negligent driving? Why not just go nuts and stick a camera on the Bogonong Parkway and film lots of, say, 50 cars. Single out the three or four that won’t be dangerously tailgating, and pull everyone else over a few km up the road and book them all for neg driving. Doing this for one random hour one day a week would probably have an impact on behaviour, if not revenue! But then, the problem is that it would be catching out Mr and Ms Jo/e Drongo, a regular non-bad-person.

And yes, I know we all stereotype and judge. Nonetheless, for me the episode served to further highlight that this testing regime is less about evidence than it is about making moral choices about what types of impairment and dangerous activity done by certain types of people are worth putting resources into policing.

milkman 4:59 am 18 Feb 13

IrishPete said :

milkman said :

IrishPete said :

Profling results in self-fulfilling prophesies – if they never test those who don’t fit the “profile”, they’ll continue to believe that only those who do fit it are breaking the law It’s standard policing but stupid and unscientific.

IP

Sorry IP, but your logic doesn’t hold. Organisations that actively profile have far more information at their disposal than your post assumes.

Think it through – we only ever test P-platers; 10% of them test positive; we keep targetting P-platers because of their high positive test rate. Self-fulfilling circular prophesy.

Now substitute Aboriginal, or “Middle-Eastern appearance”, or male, and you have legimitised racist and sexist policing. And you’ve started to explain the over-representation of some groups in prison, and the under-representation of others.

Saying “the police know best”, as others have done, is wishing for a Police State.

IP

Except they don’t only test drivers who they believe more likely to offend. They test everyone. Based on the testing of everyone they then develop profiles. And they continue to test everyone, but focus on testing more of the people who meet the ‘likely offender’ profiles.

Remember too that profiling includes much more than background and vehicle type. It also includes factors such as location, direction, time of day, etc.

DrKoresh 9:49 pm 17 Feb 13

Jane Doe said :

Who cares if they profile as long as the impaired drivers are the off the road. Unfortunately, it seems that drink driving is seen as very minor crime but it is a crime with potentially very serious consequences. In conclusion, I hope the cops keep up the profiling

Except then we have all these impaired drivers on the road because they don’t fit the profile. This is what IP is saying and why everyone who thinks profiling is a great idea is an utter moron.

IrishPete 7:25 pm 17 Feb 13

milkman said :

IrishPete said :

Profling results in self-fulfilling prophesies – if they never test those who don’t fit the “profile”, they’ll continue to believe that only those who do fit it are breaking the law It’s standard policing but stupid and unscientific.

IP

Sorry IP, but your logic doesn’t hold. Organisations that actively profile have far more information at their disposal than your post assumes.

Think it through – we only ever test P-platers; 10% of them test positive; we keep targetting P-platers because of their high positive test rate. Self-fulfilling circular prophesy.

Now substitute Aboriginal, or “Middle-Eastern appearance”, or male, and you have legimitised racist and sexist policing. And you’ve started to explain the over-representation of some groups in prison, and the under-representation of others.

Saying “the police know best”, as others have done, is wishing for a Police State.

IP

Jane Doe 5:26 pm 17 Feb 13

Who cares if they profile as long as the impaired drivers are the off the road. Unfortunately, it seems that drink driving is seen as very minor crime but it is a crime with potentially very serious consequences. In conclusion, I hope the cops keep up the profiling

Henry82 1:17 pm 17 Feb 13

Profiling has been happening for years, this is nothing new. P platers and/or driving a ricer is a guarantee you’re going to get picked on by the police.

James_Ryan 9:04 am 17 Feb 13

The merits of random vs targeted testing are irrelevant. What was put to the community and put before the Legislative Assembly was a debate about random roadside drug testing.

We already know, as a policy and as an intervention, our version of roadside drug testing is flawed. It does not achieve what it is supposed to achieve (to deter people from driving when impaired by illicit drugs). It does not catch people impaired by the drugs responsible for the most and worst crashes. It is not random. Impairment is not determined. Lastly, but very importantly, it has been introduced without an accompanying communication campaign (which the government said it would provide). The last point is relevant because the communication campaign would be the only element of this flawed policy that would stand any chance of achieving meaningful reductions at a population level in drug driving.

It does help you look tough on drugs though, and that is popular with the electorate.

drfelonious 7:24 am 17 Feb 13

A shame that the high-vis vest wearing occupants of a white Commodore that deliberately crossed into my bike lane on Friday didn’t get tested.

Oh, wait, sorry – we wouldn’t want to profile the poor dears.

gazket 12:10 am 17 Feb 13

yep you can pass the drug test smashed on heroin .

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